In 1980, with the foresight of a few, the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Foundation first conceived of a museum. The idea was to preserve our ophthalmic heritage, in part, so that by understanding our past, we could improve on our future. We would be able to better understand how the evolution of instruments and education had proceeded.
In 2020, an appropriate year for vision and 40 years after its birth, the new Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye will have a space it can truly call its own on San Francisco’s waterfront. From little acorns, tall trees will grow.
From the outset, the Academy formed a committee of museum directors whose job was to aid in the guidance and development of the museum. The committee meets each year at the Academy’s annual meeting. The first exhibit was shown at the 1982 annual meeting. An agenda item since that first meeting was the committee’s hope to achieve its own version of the great American Dream, namely, to obtain a home of its own.
The artifacts, now approaching 40,000, have mostly been warehoused, with small exhibit areas at the Academy headquarters in San Francisco or viewable online. Having a space of its own, a true home open to the public for viewing objects in the collection, educating visitors about how the eye works, developing outreach exhibits and expanding its availability in aiding researchers, is paramount in our thoughts.
Because of Academy leadership and the philanthropy of Drs. Stanley Truhlsen and Michael Marmor, the former art gallery space on the ground floor of the Academy building in San Francisco will house the new museum. With the new space also comes a new name, the Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye, acknowledging our major donors and the museums primary focus: the eye.
For the public, the ability to visit a space with artifacts that have been used for exploring the eye, to understand the visual system, learn about ophthalmology and the treatment of eye disorders will be a unique and creative addition to the museums of the world.
For the medical community, the space will expand the availability of the collection to scholars and researchers so that they may better understand how their forbearers evolved their ideas and instrumentation, and perhaps glimpse at where we are going. Young adults, a focus of the museum, will have the opportunity to learn about the eye and the visual system in ways that have not been available to them in the past. Interactive exhibits onsite and hopefully an expansion of our traveling exhibit program will bring a “sparkle” to their eyes as they view the wonder of sight and learn about its workings.
To me, the museum will be the fulfillment of a 40-year dream come true. As a college and then a medical student, history has always been a passion. I read about the past and then started collecting medical items. When asked to join the museum committee I was overjoyed. Now, the committee, its members, donors and friends will see its home become reality. Come and visit the Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye at 655 Beach St. in San Francisco starting in 2020!