The American Academy of Ophthalmology announced a project to construct the world’s first public museum dedicated to vision and eye health. The new museum will be located in San Francisco. Prominent ophthalmologist Stanley M. Truhlsen, MD, launched the project with a $4 million donation. The announcement was made at AAO 2018, the 122nd annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
The Academy is undertaking this effort to highlight the rich history of medical and surgical eye care and to help people understand their own eye health. The opening of a museum in San Francisco enables the Academy to showcase its collection of more than 38,000 artifacts, books, and instruments. These treasures have been collected for more than 30 years as the Museum of Vision, but opportunities to view them are limited to a yearly exhibit at the Academy’s annual conference. Some of the collection can be also viewed by appointment at the Academy’s headquarters, located in San Francisco.
Dr. Truhlsen’s transformational gift paves the way for construction of a 3,500-square-foot museum in the heart of a major tourist destination, Fisherman’s Wharf. It is anticipated that more than 30,000 people will visit the museum in the first year alone. The grand opening is anticipated in 2020.
“For thousands of years, ophthalmology has pushed the envelope, discovering breakthrough innovations to protect sight,” Dr. Truhlsen said. “The museum is the vehicle by which our heritage remains both relevant and inspiring; promoting continued discovery and advancement.”
Dr. Truhlsen is a past president of the Academy. He is also a university educator and recipient of the prestigious Lucien Howe Medal for ophthalmic service.
The Academy is one-third of the way to its goal of raising $12 million to create a permanent endowment to operate the museum and ensure the public will have free access. The new Museum of Vision will be the first-of-its kind by providing year-round access to the public without an appointment.
Plans call for creating an immersive experience, featuring virtual reality headsets and interactive screens, to allow visitors to explore ophthalmology’s history, its professional visionaries, technological advances, medical breakthroughs, and the latest innovations saving sight today.
The museum will be designed for visitors of all ages. School tours will be offered for students. Rotating exhibits, talks, and events, are also planned.
The Academy hopes that bringing its extensive collection out in the open for the public to experience will help people understand their own eye health and what ophthalmologists do to protect their sight, inspiring the next generation of eye physicians and surgeons.
“Most people don’t know what ophthalmology is or how ophthalmologists protect sight,” said David W. Parke II, MD, CEO, American Academy of Ophthalmology. “The new Museum of Vision will be the first of its kind where the public can go to learn about sight, to see it, to touch it.”
A video describing the project can be found here.