The museum showcase is the frontline defence system that repels all manner of undesirable effects on our hallowed collections: bandits, the environment and sticky fingers. You may laugh but most curators will have to specify a showcase made from anti-bandit glass at some point in their careers. But there is a more elevated purpose for the showcase. It maintains the air of reverence and mystique surrounding a museum object. The vitrine is a window to wondering. It provides artful elevation of even the humblest artefact – a bit like a simple ingredient in the hands of a skilled cook. Visiting museums with showcases full of object is a bit like watching a cookery programme – you can imagine and long but you can’t taste, touch or smell.