The Birmingham Museum of Art is home to one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Wedgwood pottery in the world and the only collection of its kind in the United States. The Dwight and Lucille Beeson Wedgwood Collection, bequeathed to the Museum in 1976, includes more than 1,400 pieces of Wedgwood dating from the inception of the factory in 1759 through the early nineteenth century, illustrating the range of both useful and ornamental wares produced during the lifetime of Josiah I. . The Beesons bought their first piece of Wedgwood around 1946 and soon became enthusiastic collectors, honing their knowledge of the field, and buying and selling pieces in an effort to create an outstanding assemblage of only the finest works.
In 2008, the Museum acquired a second significant collection: the Buten Wedgwood Collection with more than 8,000 pieces of pottery dating from the eighteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries. Formed by Harry and Nettie Buten, contemporaries of the Beesons, the Buten Collection also includes many rare and important pieces produced during the eighteenth century. Yet, these two collections have surprisingly little overlap. Rather, the strength of the Buten Collection lies in those objects produced during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the acquisition of this exceptional collection by the Museum allows us for the first time to tell the entire Wedgwood story.