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NEI Press Release
National Eye Institute

For Immediate Release
September 6, 2005

Photos available in downloadable, camera-ready format on the NEI Website at B-roll is available by calling 301-496-5248.

Baltimore Hosts Two Exhibits on Vision From the National Institutes of Health

Unprecedented Event Offers Comprehensive Information About Eye Health

Did you know that because most people blink every 5 seconds, our eyes are actually closed for nearly 30 minutes of our waking hours every day? Do you know that what we call "eyesight" is actually a complex process in which light is converted to electrical impulses that the brain "interprets" as vision? Did you know that millions of Americans have low vision that interferes with everyday activities?

Baltimore-area adults and children will have a remarkable opportunity to get an in-depth understanding of how vision works -- and how vision problems can be dealt with -- as two exhibits from the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, appear simultaneously in one city for the first time in September.

VISION, an exhibit that has traveled to 32 cities around the country since 1993, will be on display at the Maryland Science Center at the Inner Harbor beginning September 13 and running until January 1, 2006. After that appearance, VISION will be retired from its road trip and a permanent home for the exhibit will be explored. That same day, THE EYE SITE, an interactive exhibit on the causes and treatment of low vision, opens at the Enoch Pratt Library's Central Branch on Cathedral Street, where it will run until October 6 before moving on to Owings Mills Mall. (THE EYE SITE was also on exhibit at the Arundel Mills and White Marsh malls earlier this summer.)

The 2,000 square-foot exhibit VISION highlights two themes (1) how the eye and brain work together to create vision and (2) how researchers are developing novel strategies to protect our eyesight from disease and developmental problems. VISION also offers a remarkable display of artifacts, including antique eyeglasses, eye charts and Army Signal Corps binoculars.

Van Reiner, president of the Maryland Science Center, says he is gratified to be playing host to VISION as it concludes its 12 years on the road. "As someone who has experienced vision problems, including cataracts, this exhibition has a real personal meaning for me. Beyond that, however, it is going to give tens of thousands of Marylanders a deeper understanding of the miracle of the human eye."

And millions of Americans have had the chance to learn about the causes and treatment of low vision by visiting THE EYE SITE. According to Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, "Since 2001, THE EYE SITE has traveled to 81 shopping malls in 33 states across the country. THE EYE SITE is a fine example of the government and private sector collaborating to get important health messages out to the public in their own communities."

While it deals with the serious issue of low vision, THE EYE SITE is a hands-on, interactive exhibit featuring an animated program guide named ELVEE, (short for low vision). ELVEE is also a costumed character, who will make special appearances at the Pratt Library.

In his animated form, ELVEE leads visitors through the interactive multimedia touch screen program that provides a self-assessment and describes the causes of low vision and the warning signs. One of the five kiosks features a display of devices to help people with low vision that can be caused by a variety of conditions, including age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. A list of local resources and booklets on low vision are available in English and Spanish.

"For millions of Americans, the inability to see well makes doing even routine things difficult and is socially isolating," said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the National Eye Institute. "They have trouble recognizing the faces of friends, seeing television, reading mail -- or even walking around the neighborhood. THE EYE SITE has been developed to provide information and options for people with low vision, their families, and friends."

It is fitting that Baltimore was chosen to host both VISION and THE EYE SITE, as the city has played a key role in American eye care for nearly 200 years. In 1824, Dr. George Frick, then the city's leading "oculist" published "A Treatise on the Diseases of the Eye," the first book on ophthalmology written by an American. A Baltimore contemporary of Dr. Frick, Dr. E.G. Loring, was the first to conceive of an ophthalmoscope with sixteen lenses mounted on a rotating disc. This is the forerunner of the modern ophthalmoscope, an instrument used in every eye examination. And today, Baltimore's renowned medical institutions, including the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, are spearheading the Host Committee for the two exhibits.

Bringing THE EYE SITE to three area malls and the Enoch Pratt Library and VISION to the Maryland Science Center required the involvement of a significant number of local institutions that have worked together in an unprecedented collaboration. The Baltimore Host Committee sponsors include the following organizations: University of Maryland Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences; The Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins; National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research / Alliance for Eye and Vision Research; Spectera, A United Health Group Company; Maryland Optometric Association; Maryland Society of Eye Physicians & Surgeons;

Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Rehabilitation Services; Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; Baltimore City Medical Society; DC/MD Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired; Maryland Society for Sight; The Richard E. Hoover Rehabilitation Services for Low Vision and Blindness; Greater Baltimore Medical Center; and University of Maryland Medical Center.

Baltimore Host Committee supporters are: American Council of the Blind of Maryland; Lions Clubs District 22A; Maryland School for the Blind; Maryland Science Center; and the National Federation of the Blind.

For more information about eye health, the causes and treatment of visions problems and much more, visit the National Eye Institute web site at

The National Eye Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is the Federal government's lead agency for vision research that leads to sight-saving treatments and plays a key role in reducing visual impairment and blindness. The NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This page was last modified in September 2005

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