The Optical Heritage Museum was officially opened on June 18, 1983 to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of American Optical (AO). The museum housed over three thousand antique frames and was located to the right of the marble staircase in the AO Main Plant. 

Southbridge had a long history of manufacturing optical products, earning it the unofficial title "Eye of the Commonwealth", in reference to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. AO became the world's largest manufacturer of ophthalmic products, and at its height employed more than 6,000 people around the world. Many of its workers were exempted from the draft during World War II since they were doing vital defense work, including making Norden bombsights to aid the crew of bomber aircraft in dropping bombs accurately. They even did some work on the atomic bomb amongst many other milestones and scientific breakthroughs within the optical field.



American Optical (AO) were a world leader and at the forefront in the creation of new lenses and ophthalmic instruments in the late 1800s to early 1900s. 

They made a series of firsts and innovative scientific discoveries within the optics field.

These milestone inventions helped save lives, revolutionized picture quality in the entrainment industry and set world standards for safety to name but a few of their achievements.

Click on the image to discover more about American Optical's history.





Scientific Optical Laboratories Australia (SOLA) was formed in Adelaide, South Australia in the 1950s.

SOLA was amongst one of the first companies to produce the plastic spectacle lens CR-39®, and combined with their investments in research and development, they created a number of world-leading lens designs. SOLA had offices around the world and cemented their place in optical history.

American Optical was acquired by Scientific Optical Laboratories Australia (SOLA) in 1996 and then both companies ultimately merged with ZEISS in 2004.

Click on the image to find out more about the History of SOLA.




Carl Zeiss was established in 1846 in Germany. Similar to it's counterpart in America, of the same era, AO, ZEISS created high precision optical devices and tools.

ZEISS remains an international leader in the fields of optics and optoelectronics.

ZEISS has been contributing to technological progress for more than 165 years – with solutions for the semiconductor, automotive and mechanical engineering industries, biomedical research and medical technology, as well as eyeglass lenses, camera and cine lenses, binoculars and planetariums.

Of note, Carl Zeiss lenses were used on Mercury 8 mission and since then on all other manned US space flights. This is just one of many interesting facts and milestones achieved by ZEISS. 

Click on the image and read more about their milestones.