Recent Acquisitions: Museum of Vision Is Out of Sight

Cultural institutions in San Francisco continually search for new acquisitions. Alexis Coe brings you the most important, often wondrous, sometimes bizarre, and occasionally downright vexing finds each week.

The halls of the Museum of Vision are lined with curious relics of the past, many of which will make you cringe. Etruscan surgical instruments (500 B.C.) closely resemble nails — only these went in your eyes. Of course, spectacles abound, including glamorous Lorgnettes and art deco Pince-nez. There are religious offerings, including an eye fashioned out of clay (200 B.C.) most likely used during prayer. Much to the visitor's delight, if not relief, is a sizable collection of downright quackery. An “Ideal Sight Restorer,” made in New York circa 1900, looks like a pair of binoculars, but unlike its doppelganger, it's of absolutely no use to anyone.

And yet, the presence of these items is due to donations, because the collecting strategy of this museum has been monomaniacal for 22 years — they want oral histories, and they want them now.

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