Stoneware, faience or porcelain has never been made in the town of Basel or its surrounding area. Earthenware was produced but confined to simply decorated crockery for everyday use and for cooking. The Basel Historical Museum‘s ceramics collection, consisting of some 4,000 pieces in all (excluding services), is based on gifts and bequests from well-to-do Basel families, the first dating from an early stage in the Museum's development.

About five hundred items are grouped according to the factories that produced them in the basement of the Haus zum Kirschgarten. The Strasbourg faience made by Charles-François, Paul and Joseph Hannong in the period 1721–81 is both the focal point of the display and one of the strongest aspects of the collection. Blue faience from the early period and Joseph Hannong's flower services were used in Basel as tableware for special occasions. Soon a tradition of private collecting also developed in this field. Thanks to the gift in 1992 of more than 80 items from Jacques Voltz and his heirs Theodore and Mathilde Voltz-Vogel, supplemented with other gifts and deposits of outstanding single items – as well as selective purchase – a collection has been assembled that is regarded today as the most important collection of Strasbourg faience in Swiss public ownership.

Between 1987 and 1993 more than 500 items in the very heterogeneous ceramics collection of the former Museum of Applied Arts were taken over by the Basel Historical Museum, so that more modern work is now also represented.

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