Help save the Wedgwood Collection

The Art Fund has launched an appeal to save the Wedgwood Collection – a unique record of over 250 years of British art and history – from being separated and sold off.

The Wedgwood Collection – one of the most important industrial archives in the world – is at risk of being sold unless we can raise £15.75m by 30 November 2014. Over £13m has already been secured, thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and a small number of private trusts and foundations – but now, we're asking the public to help us raise the remaining £2.74m.

The Collection is a unique archive of British politics, society, science and art, containing over 80,000 works of art, ceramics, manuscripts and letters, pattern books and photographs. Developments in taste and fashion can be traced over three centuries, with artist commissions ranging from John Flaxman in the 18th century to Eduardo Paolozzi, Peter Blake and Patrick Heron in the 20th. Among the most valuable items in the Collection are the Wedgwood family portraits painted by George Stubbs and Joshua Reynolds.

Why the collection is at risk

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 £15.75m needed to purchase the Collection on behalf of the nation – saving it forever.

The appeal

All of your donations will be matched pound-for-pound, thanks to the generosity of a private charitable trust. If our appeal is successful. 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.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: 'For several years we have been working with partners nationally and in Stoke to find a way to save the Wedgwood Collection from being broken up and sold off on the open market. Having explored all options, we have now negotiated to buy the complete Collection at a fair price, enabling us to keep it together and on display locally and ensuring it is never put at risk again. If we raise the remaining £2.74m needed by 30 November, we will be able to gift the Collection to the V&A to display it long term in the existing museum in the redeveloped visitor attraction at the Barlaston site. If, with the public's help, we can raise the remaining funds (matched pound-for-pound with extra funding from a UK private trust) the future for the Wedgwood Collection has, despite all past difficulties, never looked brighter.'

Please give to our appeal: you can donate online or text WEDGWOOD to 70800 to give £10. Thanks for your support!

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