The New Wedgwood Museum, Stoke-on-Trent
Housed in a striking contemporary building designed by Stoke-on-Trent architects, Hulme Upright Manning, on the historic manufacturing site of Josiah Wedgwood and Sons Limited, the new Wedgwood Museum celebrates the art of ceramics at its finest.
The museum is dedicated to the people who have made objects of great beauty from the soil of Staffordshire and celebrates the universally famous Wedgwood name.
Whether visitors are just looking at beautiful objects or have a specialist knowledge, the Museum gives a fascinating insight into the life of Josiah Wedgwood, his family, and the company he founded two and a half centuries ago. It also encompasses other significant aspects of British scientific and social history including the Wedgwood family involvement in the campaign for the abolition of slavery, Tom Wedgwood and his pioneering work in early photography, Josiah Wedgwood I’s grandson Charles Darwin to the company’s war-time contributions.
The skills, artistry and ingenuity of the Wedgwood workforce are displayed chronologically from 1730 to today. The first Josiah Wedgwood understood the value of archives, and visitors will be intrigued to see not just pots but a huge and unique range of manuscripts, documentation, correspondence, factory equipment, trials and original models as well as fine art and, of course, one of the most important ceramic collections in the world.
In the context of a decline in local ceramic production the new Wedgwood Museum has also become a beacon of the pride local people have in an industry that has been part of their lives for generations. This is one of the museum’s most-important legacies.
The Wedgwood collections are important not only locally but also regionally, nationally and internationally. This whole project has enabled the display of ten times more objects than ever before revealing the glories and surprises of this fascinating accumulation for the benefit of all.
Some of your comments:
Wow! A stunning collection. It is simultaneously a museum, art gallery, interactive exhibition and living archive in a stunning building. Almost invisible glass separates visitors from artefacts - reassuring for parents without putting a noticeable barrier in front of the displays. You don't realise how much you've learned - and gained - during a visit. Well done!
Jay Commins, Selby
Wonderful to have a great new museum so close to us - our 7 year old went there with her school and enjoyed it so much she has taken us with her (twice) since Christmas. It well repays repeat visits - lots to see and do, and a terrific monument to an important figure.
Chris Copp, Stone
A stunning new building which encloses a wide range of exhibits. All exhibits are placed in their historical and cultural context in a readily accessible manner and using a variety of ways of communication. Brings us right up to date and reminds visitors of the living character of ceramics. Friendly and committed staff add to the experience.
Professor David Morgan, Newcastle-under-Lyme
It would be difficult to find a better example of how a city and a nation's fortunes have been shaped so influentially by an individual. The Wedgwood story told here, and the objects therein, place us at the birth of Great Britain's industrial revolution and the story of a man who would become known as the father of English pottery.
His early experiments, the evolution of his work and the new processes and innovations he employed are vividly traced at the museum. The pieces are an amazing testament to the firm's ingenuity and artistry. The ascendance of the local area as a world leader in ceramic production owes a great deal to Wedgwood. This museum is a fitting legacy.
Andy Mackay, Stoke-on-Trent
Exceptionally interesting and cleverly presented displays. Spent twice as long here as we intended - without noticing. Will certainly recommend it as a museum to visit; we were impressed by the friendly welcome from the staff who seemed really keen on the heritage displayed here. In conclusion - an excellent experience which deserves a much wider British audience.
Tom Hope, Rugby
This must be the most comprehensive account to date of a remarkable UK industry, never more threatened than at present. Although principally about Josiah Wedgwood and the company he founded, this display encompasses many of the significant events in the pottery industry in North Staffordshire in the last 250 years. It shows how one man, surrounded by original thinkers of the time, can have the vision and drive to change the direction of an entire industry and so create an industrial dynasty. The museum has many different layers and so works at many different levels; these include the historical, the sociological, the technical and engineering levels and finally pure spectacle. Anyone who visits this museum can be guaranteed to be entertained and educated at the same time and leave with a new insight into one of the UK's great industrial success stories. Be warned however that more than one visit is required to gain the full range of what this museum has to offer.
Jonathan Green, Stoke-on-Trent
This museum exceeds the hopes and expectations of those of us who have awaited its opening. The articles on display have space in which they can be appreciated, while the flow of the of the exhibition, the judicious use of labelling and the contextual material allow all visitors to proceed at their own pace. Were the ceramic display be all that the museum had to offer it would be a worthy contender for the Art Fund Prize. However across the foyer, and available for study is one of the country's great archives. In the late eighteenth century Josiah Wedgwood was in touch with virtually every one of importance in the world of the arts and sciences, across Europe and on to America. The ceramics are wonderful; together with the archive they are magnificent.
Dr Alun Davies, Newcastle under Lyme
Two hours flew by. The museum was beautifully laid out, the exhibits clearly numbered, and led you effortlessly along through the history of Wedgwood. The exhibits were fascinating and well captioned. There were a comprehensive selection of all the better-known and lesser-known products of the company, real insights into the character and relationships of the first Josiah Wedgwood and honest appraisals of the ups and downs of the company. The quality of the building was excellent, the reception was airy and spacious, the written information clear and immediately above it were examples of the pottery from the relevant period. The lighting and bespoke benches were well designed. The receptionist was very helpful. How nice that there were no gimmicks, short computer programmes helped demonstrate techniques, no more than that. Faith was shown in the inherent interest of Wedgwood's development and the beauty of its product without the need for embellishment. An elegant and timeless museum.
Ruth Pearsall, Stourbridge