Friday, March 23, 2012

Business Historians Join Fight To Save Wedgwood Collection

The company founded by Josiah Wedgwood was merged with Waterford in 1986, and then "fell into administration" in 2009. A High Court judge in the UK ruled on December 19, 2011, that the Wedgwood Museum's 10,000-piece collection of  fine pottery is not held in trust, and so can be sold to pay off a claim by the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).  New pensions legislation holds any solvent organization liable for the entire debt of a pension fund if any of its employees are in that pension fund; the museum has five eligible employees. The government has just announced that it sees no legal ground on which to appeal the ruling, creating a firestorm of negative reaction. It is hoped that private or public benefactors will be found to prevent the collection's being broken up and to keep it available for public display.
    Andrew Popp, John Wilson, and Robin Holt of the University of Liverpool School of Management have written in opposition to the sale of the museum's collection. They said, in part, "We are deeply concerned at the implications of this decision – a vital part of the nation’s industrial, economic and cultural heritage is now under threat of dispersal, moving overseas or into private ownership. This would be a tragedy – the artefacts and archives of Wedgwood are every bit as important to this country, its history, and its identity as any painting, stately home, or other piece of fine art."
    An overall explanation of the situation, with a good list of links to the parliamentary and media coverage can be found here.
    For a brief history of Josiah Wedgwood's company, see here; for images, see the Wedgwood Museum website. The company features prominently in Regina Blaszczyk's Imagining Consumers: Design and Innovation from Wedgwood to Corning (Johns Hopkins, 2000).

Tip of the hat to Andrew Smith at The Past Speaks.