–As written by Charlotte Higgins of The Guardian Newspaper
It must be a curator’s sweatiest nightmare. Beyond the collection being swiped by thieves, the museum burning to the ground or, of course, your funding being withdrawn, there is always the dread possibility that some malign, clumsy or plain unlucky member of the public might destroy a prize holding.
That has happened at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. According to witnesses, an unfortunate visitor tripped over his shoelace and fell on to three Qing dynasty vases, shattering them.
Another visitor said: “We watched the man fall as if in slow motion. He landed in the middle of the vases and they splintered into a million pieces. He was still sitting there stunned when staff appeared. Everyone stood around in silence, as if in shock. The man kept pointing to his shoelace, saying, ‘There it is; that’s the culprit.’ ”
Duncan Robinson, director of the Fitzwilliam, said: “It was a most unfortunate and regrettable accident but we are glad that the visitor involved was able to leave the museum unharmed. Conservators are evaluating the damage prior to repair work being considered.
“While the method of displaying objects is always under review, it is important not to overreact and make the museum’s collections less accessible to the visiting public.”
The Chinese vases date from the latter part of the reign of the Kangxi emperor (1662-1722) and are painted in enamels with traces of gilding. The incident happened at lunchtime on Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the museum – which refused to say how much the vases were worth – said: “Conservators will be evaluating the damage in the next couple of days, and the plan is to restore them.
HOW EASILY THIS COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED……