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Feb 14, 2006 7:30 pm

How do you fix a smashed antique vase?

When a visitor to a Cambridge museum tripped over his shoelaces he smashed a set of 17th Century Chinese porcelain vases into pieces. Conservationists have now pledged to glue them back together, but how?

It sounds like something from a crime scene. Once the body was removed from the staircase, a fingertip search for evidence began.

The body in question was Nick Flynn, who had accidentally fallen into three of the Fitzwilliam museum's Qing dynasty vases, breaking one and crunching two into small pieces. (Mr Flynn, himself, was unharmed.)

With hundreds of pieces of porcelain scattered over the staircase, the location was photographed using a grid, then each fragment was recorded and taken away for examination.

Collecting the pieces took more than two days - filling 25 trays with fragments ranging from big chunks to tiny shards, which had been strewn around the stairs and further damaged by first-aiders going to help the fallen Mr Flynn.

"It was like an archaeological dig, very meticulous, very systematic," said a museum spokeswoman.

After this initial phase of recovering the pieces, the museum is now planning to appoint an expert to restore the vases.

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