How you can help preserve optometry’s rich history
To know where you're going, you must understand where you've been. This old adage holds true for the profession of optometry, which is why the Archives & Museum of Optometry is much more than a reference library—it's a vital piece of the AOA.
"I felt it was important to know where we came from to help make the decisions that will help us achieve where we want to go."
Dedicated to preserving optometry's history for the AOA, Kirsten Hébert serves as the heritage services specialist at the Archives & Museum. She notes that many of the materials housed at the Archives & Museum are unique—not found anywhere else in the world.
"In addition to paper records, we hold materials in a variety of formats, many of which are unstable and must be kept in special conditions to remain viable. Without the Archives, much of the documentation of the history of the association and the discipline itself in the United States would be lost," Hébert says.
The Archives & Museum is a partner of the Optometric Historical Society (OHS), which was founded in 1969.
Introducing a collection of first-person narratives
The Archives & Museum recently relaunched the oral history program, which had been in hiatus since 1973.
The first member to be interviewed is Lester Caplan, O.D., M.Ed., who has a long history in optometry. Dr. Caplan, 90, worked in private practice, as well as academia at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry.
Dr. Caplan has been called the "Father of Indian Health Service Optometry" for his work as a special consultant to the Director of the Indian Health Service (IHS) from 1969 to 1985.
"I felt that the oral history project, if properly publicized, could bring about a resurgence of interest in what the profession had gone through over the past 100 years to make it what it is today," he says.
Although, Caplan notes, "It seems as though you have to be old to rekindle an interest in history." He recalls joining the OHS as a young optometrist.
"I felt it was important to know where we came from to help make the decisions that will help us achieve where we want to go. I believe that still holds today for all optometrists, regardless of age or practice setting," Dr. Caplan says.
"Support of both the Archives & Museum and the OHS is essential in order for both organizations to maintain their viability," he adds.
Take pride in optometry's history and impact its future
Make a donation to support the Archives & Museum of Optometry through Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation.