The Fitzwilliam Museum doesn’t normally attract a great deal of attention, but in 2006 it leapt into the news when a visitor named Nick Flynn tripped on a loose shoelace and swept three precious Qing vases off a windowsill, smashing them to bits and causing damage of between £100,000 and £500,000, depending on how assiduously you Google the matter. Photographs of the aftermath of the occasion, available on the internet, show that Flynn’s trip was possibly the greatest shoelace fall in history for he managed to sweep clear a windowsill that was perhaps fifteen feet long and leave the vases in thousands of small pieces on the floor. Police arrested Flynn on the suspicion that the damage was intentional, but the charges were subsequently dropped. ‘I actually think I did the museum a favour,’ Flynn told the Guardian. ‘So many people have gone there to see the windowsill where it all happened that I must have increased the visitor numbers. They should make me a trustee.’ Not surprisingly, the museum did not do that. Instead, it wrote to Flynn and politely asked him not to come back any time soon. It was all it could do.
I had read that the vases had been repaired and were back on display now, though safely behind tempered glass. I asked an attendant where they were and she directed me to a glass case that I had in fact just been peering into. The repairs are so good as to be essentially invisible. I had to look hard a second time to see even the tiniest line of repair. Speaking as someone who has never glued anything without also at the same time unintentionally glueing at least three other things, I was impressed.
Saturday, March 31, 2018
Instead, it wrote to Flynn and politely asked him not to come back any time soon.
From The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson. Page 218.