The Wedgwood Museum reopens - Museums Association

The Wedgwood Museum reopens

World of Wedgwood expects to attract 145,000 visitors in its first year
Nicola Sullivan
The Wedgwood Museum, which has been refurbished as part of the £34m redevelopment of the Wedgwood Estate and factory in Barlaston near Stoke-on-Trent, will open its doors to the public this month.

The museum is part of the World of Wedgwood, which also includes a tea room, restaurant and retail shop. Visitors can take a tour of the working factory, which is responsible for half of Wedgwood’s global ceramics production. There are also two studio spaces in which visitors can have a go at throwing a pot or decorating a piece of crockery or a picture frame.

Last year Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton (WWRD), which has recently been acquired by Fiskars Group, secured £5.1m funding for the project from the government’s regional growth fund.
The museum, which covers 250 years of British art and history, is home to the Wedgwood Collection, which was under threat of sale to meet a £135m pension deficit inherited from the Wedgwood Pension Plan Trustee Limited that went into administration in 2009.

It was saved last year following a successful public fundraising campaign led by the Art Fund (with substantial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund) that raised £15.75m. The collection of 80,000 ceramic artefacts was bought by the Art Fund and gifted to the Victoria and Albert museum, which loaned it to the Wedgwood Museum on a long-term basis.

Visitors to the newly refurbished museum, which now has additional gallery spaces, can see 3,000 artefacts, dating back to 1759 when Josiah Wedgwood founded the company.  

Anthony Jones, the chief financial officer of WWRD, told Museums Journal that the multi-faceted approach taken by World of Wedgwood, expected to attract 145,000 visitors this year, is important for the long-term future of the museum.

“I think the museum has struggled for years on its own to be a viable offer - that’s the bottom line. The reality was that a big part of the problem in addition to raising the £15.75m was that no one really talked about how to run it on a viable basis.
“Behind the scenes we talked about that and we said ‘we don’t have £15.75m – it is a phenomenal amount of money for a company of our size and we are not in the business of owning priceless pieces of art, but we do understand the operations of this and we would be willing to take on a loss-making situation and put it right,’” said Jones.

In the new museum the objects are arranged chronologically in four galleries covering the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Highlights include: the Cauliflower Coffee Pot Earthenware made by Wedgwood between 1759 and 1765 and noted for its innovative green glaze and the Portland Vase – a replica of the famous Roman cameo-glass vase once owned by the Duchess of Portland.

The exhibition also explores the Wedgwood family tree highlighting connections to other high profile figures, including Charles Darwin who was the potter’s grandson.

World of Wedgwood opens on 17 July.

For more on the increasing popularity of ceramics read the article Fired up in the latest issue of Museums Journal. 

Leave a comment

You must be signed in to post a comment.