The Wedgwood Museum faces bankruptcy if the pensions debt is taken on
The Wedgwood Museum has been served with a letter transferring a £130m pension debt from the collapsed pottery maker.
Waterford Wedgwood Plc went into administration in January last year with a pension fund shortfall.
The museum in Stoke-on-Trent is a trust and is separate from the pottery firm, but linked by a shared pension fund.
Chair of the Wedgwood Group Pension Plan, Chris Johnson, said the notice was served "with very great regret".
The government's Pension Protection Fund administrators say as the museum remains in operation, taxpayers can be protected by recouping losses from the trust.
Mr Johnson said legal advice given to trustees is that the trust can be held liable for the pension debt.
But the trust is considering a legal challenge to the notice, and say selling off the collection would not mean "an extra penny" to pensioners.
The museum charts 250 years of British social, design and industrial history via the Wedgwood products ranges.
Some of the museum's treasures have been described as priceless
In June last year museum staff were celebrating after winning a £100,000 Art Fund Prize for museums and galleries.
But now they face having the collection, some of which is described as "priceless", being sold-off.
Pension trustees say they have to serve the museum with the debt to benefit from the Pension Protection Fund.
Mr Johnson said: "I have been a Wedgwood man forever, and I'm passionate about its history and treasure.
"But we have to obey the law and obey due process."
The museum has been displaying its exhibits since 1906 and became a trust in 1962.
Trust chairman George Stonier said: "We are absolutely determined to do everything we can to preserve our museum."