Five minutes with BOS museum Curator, Sophie Riches

What kind of orthodontic objects are held at the BOS Museum? 

The BOS collection ranges from 19th century functional appliances, historical tools such as a bracket press and welders, wires to 20th century design and even early Invisalign models. We also have the full collection of Northcroft masks. 

How long has it been around?

Some of the BOS museum collection date back to the mid 1800’s but the museum was officially started by George Northcroft when he founded the BSSO in 1907. There have been a lot of changes in this time period. For example, there has always been an interest in orthodontic function but the understanding of facial muscle movement has built over time and this is reflected in the changing design of the appliances.

How did you get into museum work?

I was always interested in history, particularly early Roman and Greek and gained a degree in Archaeology from Nottingham University. After spending some time on archaeological sites as part of my study, I decided that ‘the dig’ wasn’t for me and went to study my MA in Museum Studies at Durham. I fell into dental history and worked at the BDA Museum on Wimpole Street in London for a number of years previous to my time here.

What are your favourite pieces in the collection?

I think that the most impressive pieces in the collection are the Northcroft masks. These are plaster cast moulds of the face of George Northcroft’s own child, William. He began taking casts of William from the age of 2 in 1910 for the purpose of study into how the face and muscles change throughout life. Moulds were taken routinely throughout his childhood. Past curator of the BOS museum, Professor Jim Moss continued to take moulds of William’s face all the way into his 80’s.  A paper is available on the Northcroft masks. 

I also really like an early removable appliance with an Ivory palate dating back to 1860. For a historical object, it is quite aesthetically pleasing. Before wires and brackets, wooden posts (which would swell) were used in conjunction with the palate to move teeth.  

Finally, there is an upper removable appliance in the collection made with apron springs and C clasps and used sometime after the 1970’s. The strings had become detached and were replaced with a hairpin by the patient who, at the time was just 15-year-old.  Amazingly, the appliance continued to work after his home adjustment.

Do you want to grow the museum collection?

Most of our collection has been donated to us, whether it be working BOS members or retired orthodontists. We are always on the look out for new objects to add to our collection and have some exciting new projects coming up where we will be looking to ‘fill some gaps’ in the timeline as it were so if there are any orthodontists with a case or object that they think might be of interest, please do get in touch

What’s on the plan for the BOS Museum in 2018?

We have just begun a new project called ‘100 objects to tell the story of orthodontics’ and are collecting and sourcing new orthodontic objects to create a sort of timeline from the 18th century until the present day.  Together with the rest of the museum committee, – we are continuing with our oral history interviews. We have completed nine interviews with orthodontists and other prominent members of the orthodontic profession so far. These will be available to listen to through the BOS website. There is also a ‘digitalisation project’ on the horizon. Models of teeth from two research projects from the 1960’s are to be digitally scanned by our friends at ArchFormByte and eventually available online. 

Sophie works part time at the BOS Museum and is in the office on a Monday and Friday.  Viewings of the museum are available on request by emailing: