An essential piece of gear while watching eclipses are eclipse glasses or, eclipse viewers. Solar eclipses are such memorable events in one's life that eclipse viewers are often saved over the decades and generations. A collection of these historic viewers is now on display at Williams College, Massachussetts. Following is a description of this collection by Professor Jay Pasachoff:
A total solar eclipse is safe to view directly during totality, when the Moon completely covers the Sun and only the corona is visible. However, before and after totality or during partial or annular phases of the eclipse, the visible sun is almost a million times brighter than the corona; eye protection is necessary for safe viewing of the eclipse. Luke Cole (1962-2009) amassed a collection of eclipse viewers–special glasses with filters specifically for viewing the eclipsed Sun–from eclipses since 1793. Viewers starting with the eclipse of 1831 are on display here.
See http://astronomy.williams.edu/eclipse-viewers/ for a full display.
The collection was donated by Nancy Shelby of San Francisco, CA in memory of her late husband, Luke Cole, who collected the eclipse viewers. The liaison with Williams College’s Hopkins Observatory was arranged by Skip Cole, Williams College class of 1957.
The total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, will be visible as partial from the whole Continental United States, so viewers like these will be in general circulation. The path of totality will cross from Oregon to South Carolina, and even within the path, viewers like these will be needed before and after totality during the partial phases.
A selection of the actual viewers is on physical display in Williams College, Massachusetts. our Mehlin Museum of Astronomy, which is part of our Hopkins Observatory, the oldest extant astronomical observatory in the U.S.: http://astronomy.williams.edu/hopkins-observatory/