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ACO opens new gallery for Australia’s optometry museum

22/05/2019By Callum Glennen
The Australian College of Optometry (ACO) has this week officially opened a new gallery at the Kett Optometry Museum. The contemporary display charts the optometric profession’s history from the 13th century to today, and features a large collection of early spectacles, lenses, equipment and ephemera.

Ms Maureen O’Keefe, ACO CEO, and Mr Anthony Carbines, Victorian parliamentary secretary for health, officially opened the Aitken Gallery on 20 May 2019. The gallery is named in honour of Mr Michael Aitken, one of the museum’s longer-serving honorary archivists.

O’Keefe described the gallery as charting optometry’s evolution.

“It has been wonderful to see how well the opening of the new Aitken Gallery, located within the Kett Optometry Museum at the Australian College of Optometry, has been received today by the optometry community, and we're looking forward to opening the Gallery to the wider community,” O’Keefe told Insight.

Maureen O
Maureen O
“It’s a valuable resource and we are looking forward to, through the friends of the museum and the wider community, getting support to continue to grow and build”
Maureen O’Keefe, ACO

The gallery includes displays that detail all aspects of the ophthalmic profession, from the earliest equipment to modern diagnostic tools. Highlights include a showcase of historic spectacles, a of variety ophthalmic equipment from both past and present, and a replica 1930s consulting room.

“I think what makes the Aitken Gallery unique is that it exhibits displays from the only optometry museum in Australia, the Kett Museum at the ACO, which provides a single national focal point for optometry collections from across Australia. We have also had some really interesting donations from overseas which helps to tell the story about optometry’s arrival and adaptation in Australia,” O’Keefe said.

“It’s a valuable resource and we are looking forward to, through the friends of the museum and the wider community, getting support to continue to grow.”

O’Keefe added that the museum is always on the lookout for pieces to add to the collection. “I'd encourage anyone who thinks they may have any interesting eye care artefacts or publications at the back of a cupboard somewhere to have a look through, and email photos and description of any possible items of interest to the archivists at

“You may not realise their value to the history of optometry in Australia and the level of interest people have in seeing them.”

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For the museum’s next stage the ACO will digitise its collection.

“Our next step is to create a virtual museum and an app so that you don't have to physically come in to see the exhibitions and collections and can get all the information you need from where ever you are,” O’Keefe said.

The Aitken Gallery is located within the ACO in Carlton, Victoria.


More reading:

ACO National Conference: The history of medicine

Image caption: From L left: Honorary archivists Mr Colin Bates, Mr Joseph Chakman AM, Mr Barry Cole AO, Ms Pamela Sutton, Michael Aitken, Victorian parliamentary secretary for health Mr Anthony Carbines, and ACO president Ms Maureen O’Keefe

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