The following plea comes to us from the Wedgwood Collection from Stoke-on-Trent, England. Above image is of Josiah Wedgwood, founder of the Wedgwood pottery company in the UK.
The Wedgwood Collection, one of the most important industrial archives in the world and a unique record of over 250 years of British art, is under threat of being separated and sold off. The Art Fund now has the opportunity to purchase it for the nation intact, provided the final £2.74m of a total £15.75m fundraising target can be raised by 30 November 2014. This is the only chance to keep the Collection in one piece and on public display, preserving this unique record of British history and global commerce.
The Collection is the major asset of the Wedgwood Museum Trust, which inherited £134m of pension debt as a result of the UK subsidary of Waterford Wedgwood Plc going into administration in 2009. The debt transferred from company to Trust because the two had been linked through a shared pension fund. Although the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) – the industry body set up by the government to compensate individual pensioners in the event of a company insolvency – will absorb the liability, it has a duty to claw back as much as it can from sale of assets.
In December 2011 the High Court ruled that the Wedgwood Collection was indeed an asset of the Wedgwood Museum Trust that should be sold in order to repay some of the debt owed, and in March 2012 the Attorney General upheld this ruling.
Since then, the Art Fund and other partners have looked at all options to prevent the Collection from being broken up and sold on the open market. However, after exploring several avenues, all parties have now agreed that the only option is for the Art Fund to raise the necessary funds to purchase the Collection on behalf of the nation.
In order to protect the Collection from ever being at risk again, if the money can be raised, the Art Fund plans to gift it to the Victoria & Albert Museum, the national museum of art and design. Without needing to move it, but with its ownership secure in perpetuity, the V&A intends to assign it on long-term loan to the Wedgwood Museum at Barlaston, which will lie at the heart of a major new visitor experience as part of Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton’s (WWRD) £34m redevelopment of the site – set for completion in spring 2015.
The Art Fund has launched an appeal to raise the full £15.75m needed for the purchase, in order to keep this irreplaceable collection together and on display. Thanks to major support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and a number of private trusts and foundations, over £13m has already been raised. The campaign has until 30 November to find the remaining £2.74m necessary to purchase – and save – the Collection.
The future of the remarkable Wedgwood Collection has never looked brighter – provided the funds can be raised.