Whenever I visit the British Museum, the Ashmolean or the Pitt Rivers, I find myself marvelling not just at the beauty of the objects in their collections but at the astonishing resilience of these things – their will, in effect, to live.
The fragile beakers of iridescent Roman glass, the astounding Macedonian wreath – a miniature forest of acorns and oak leaves, made of beaten gold and trembling as in a summer breeze – the silvered glass bottle, stoppered with sealing wax and rumoured to contain a witch; how have they survived?
They have endured not just the convulsions of history but (arguably more devastating) the hazards of everyday life: the butterfingered washer-up, the inquisitive child, the expansive gesture that takes out an entire shelf-full of frangible tchotchkes.
In our house the crash and tinkle of expiring objects is a familiar leitmotif. “Yet again,” said my son bitterly one...
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