Monday, January 30, 2006

Stumbling Tourist Smashes Rare China Vases

"CAMBRIDGE, England - A visitor to a British museum tripped on his shoelace, stumbled down a stairway and fell into a display of centuries-old Chinese vases, shattering them into 'very small pieces,' officials said Monday.

The three Qing dynasty vases, dating from the late 17th or early 18th century, had been donated to the Fitzwilliam Museum in the university city of Cambridge in 1948 and were among its best-known artifacts. They sat on the window sill beside the staircase for 40 years.

'It was a most unfortunate and regrettable accident, but we are glad that the visitor involved was able to leave the museum unharmed,' museum director Duncan Robinson said.

The museum declined to identify the man who tripped on a loose shoelace Wednesday.

Asked about the porcelain vases, Margaret Greeves, the museum's assistant director, said: 'They are in very, very small pieces, but we are determined to put them back together.'

The museum declined to say what the vases were worth. "

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