Through My Lens

Capturing Optical Knowledge

A few months ago, I noticed a mysterious booth had appeared in one of the main corridors in New York’s Grand Central Station, which I pass through in my daily commute. The booth— about 15 feet by 15 feet—is just big enough for a couple of chairs, a small table and a microphone.

I learned that the booth was set up by a radio producer who wanted to record people’s life stories. Trained staff is on hand at the booth to help interview people and record what they say about themselves and their experiences. Afterward, interviewees can take home a copy of their story on CD. The stories are then compiled into an archive for future reference.

What a great idea. Someone had the foresight to capture the stories of ordinary folks reflecting on their lives and times. While some people are better storytellers than others or may have more interesting comments, the collective cache of information will undoubtedly be rich.

Imagine if a booth like this were set up at Vision Expo or the annual meetings of the Optical Laboratories Association or the American Optometric Association.

Even if it were just for a few days, think of how many valuable recollections about what it’s like working in the optical industry could be captured. ODs, MDs, opticians, retailers and lab personnel—anyone with a good memory and a willingness to share what they know—could reminiscence about the companies, products and especially the colleagues that have affected them most. They could give their own first-hand impressions of what it’s been like to be part of this colorful, constantly evolving industry of ours. Once the stories are captured, they can be archived and even transcribed for publication and distribution, perhaps through a web site.

This is clearly a major undertaking that would require a commitment of time and money from some far-sighted company or organization. But why not start the process now? Do you know a senior member of your organization who may be willing to share his or her knowledge and perspectives on the optical life? Walk them over to the nearest tape recorder or computer, hand them a mic and start them talking. You may be surprised how much you learn.

—Andrew Karp
Group Editor, Lenses and Technology