Museum trips up on insurance for vases

The Sunday Telegraph reports: "Things seemed bad enough when a loose shoelace sent Nick Flynn tumbling down a staircase at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The ensuing crashlanding smashed three 300-year-old Qing Dynasty Chinese vases, (estimated value, when not in smithereens, £100,000.) Now documents obtained by this newspaper reveal that the museum will receive nothing in compensation for the smashed vases because it failed to get them insured. And the same papers reveal that the debacle was not the only "Norman Wisdom moment" at the museum."

In 1999 an Egyptian sarcophagus lid which had survived more than two thousand years eventually met its match in the form of a French teenager on a school exchange trip. Museum attendants caught the 15-year-old trying to hide three fragments which had become detached by his attempt to lift it. The limestone lid, also uninsured and estimated to be worth tens of thousands of pounds, needed extensive repair and was removed from the premises for three years.

Seven years later, Mr Flynn and his shoelace arrived. He was photographed after his fall lying amid the porcelain and described the incident as "my Norman Wisdom moment".

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show how the museum wanted to avoid admitting the vases were not insured, with one internal e-mail recording "our wish to be reticent in response to any questions about insurance".

Whoops (again)! We didn't insure £100,000 vases, admits museum (Sunday Telegraph, 12 March 2006)