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Why is the Wedgwood Museum collection at risk?

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Can anyone explain to me why the Wedgwood Museum collection should be held liable for the Waterford Wedgwood Pension Fund deficit? This makes absolutely no sense to me at all and is a worrying development which raises all sorts of questions for other museum collections:

nigel benson:

The situation at the Wedgwood Museum has not materially changed for some 6 months. Common sense might suggest that it is wrong, however laws that were brought in to protect pension funds after the Maxwell fiasco have left a lophole which may result in the wholesale plunder of a unique museum. This is NOT what the law was set up to do and it is this that is the subject of the judgement in the spring of 2011.

Apart from giving our support, there is little that can be done, since it is unlikely that those who wish to liquidate the museum, as an asset of the former Waterford Wedgwood company, will change their mind; possibly they could be sued by 'a n other' for not performing their Duty of Care if they do not explore every possibe source of money/asset for re-funding the pension fund. Of course morally it stinks, but sadly the tortuous logic is inescapable.

General support and publicity can, IMHO, only help to give awareness to others about the situation. The ramifications toward other museum funding problems and answers being formulated are obvious - particularly, as the article suggests, where Trusts are involved.

Let us hope that the judgement is enlightened, giving what might be considered a common sense approach to the problem, rather than perhaps upholding what turns out to be a law being used/abused - however legal!!


Nigel, thank you. So the court review will determine the legality of the law as it stands? Whilst the judicial process is going on, will the collection be protected from being plundered? I'm wondering if the judgement decides the collection is fair game, is there an appeal process? Is the Museum not a charitable trust? How does that sit with all of this? I really can't come to grips with this at all.

Bernard C:
For those not aware of the immediately direct relevance of this to those interested in English glass, I'm reasonably certain that the Wedgwood Museum collection includes:

* The Stuart pattern books,
* The pattern books of Philip Pargeter, acquired by Frederick Stuart in 1881 when he took over the lease of the Red House Glassworks,
* The extremely important small collection of unmarked but well provenanced Stuart/Stonier White Star and other shipping line glasses formerly on display in the Red House shop,
* The magnificent Walsh Opaline Brocade epergne formerly on display in the Red House shop,
* Other Stuart glass, some unmarked, including some enamelled pieces, formerly on display in the Red House shop.
The collection may well include further Pargeter/Stuart/Stonier glass and archives.

Bernard C.  8)

Note that I used Gulliver as a reference while I was drafting this reply.

Thanks Bernard, that's also worrying to know. As we're in Cafe I'd not really considered the glass connection here - it was more to do with the general principle of museum collections being at risk in such a situation and whether or not other (glass) collections could be held similarly liable in like circumstances.

The whole concept of a collection being held "in trust" implies, at least to me, that it should be protected from any such plunderability, and it seems that if the judgement is that the museum is liable for the fund's deficit, then it opens a whole can of worms for others to similarly try and realise assets in collections to pay off pension debts.

I wonder if this collection has been (or needs to be) vested in the Official Custodian, (section 18 of the Charities Act 1993) for its interim protection?

Nigel, I notice your careful choice of words re "General support and publicity can, IMHO, only help to give awareness to others about the situation." Are you of the opinion that wider publicity might worsen the situation by giving others similar ideas? This was my worry, hence the topic being in Cafe where it is visible to members only.


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