Preston’s Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library is bidding to become the UK’s first blended museum, art gallery and library and is asking for the public’s help to make it happen, just as it celebrates its 125th anniversary.
Every day, almost 1,000 people, from all walks of life, visit the Harris – just as its Victorian founders hoped they would. However, after 125 years of daily use, the Harris is tired. It needs critical repairs and refurbishment to ensure it is a welcoming and inspiring place for everyone, today and for the future. Today, staff start a major public consultation to find out what people want.
Meanwhile, registered charity, the Friends of the Harris, launch their fundraising campaign, #HarrisYourPlace to help make it happen.
Current outline plans include community-led, interactive displays blending books, art and historic objects inspired by the stories of Preston and Lancashire people, including many objects never before displayed; a dynamic central hub for activities on the ground floor; improved exhibition, event and meeting spaces; more opportunities for people to get involved and be creative; better support for artists and businesses; and a new entrance, stairway and lift on the Lancaster Road side opposite Preston Guild Hall.
Building owners Preston City Council, along with Lancashire County Council, which manages the library service, have submitted a joint bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for £4.7million to support a total £10.7million project.
The bid is backed by £3.6million of funding already in place from both Councils, the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, Arts Council England and local supporters. The result of the HLF bid will be known in January 2019.
If successful, there will be a period of about two years during which detailed plans will be drawn up. Now, the Harris wants to consult with the public on what they want to see in the refurbished building and is launching the #HarrisYourPlace public fundraising campaign to support the project.
Cllr Peter Kelly, Cabinet Member for Culture & Leisure at Preston City Council says: “We have a one in 100 year opportunity to make the Harris uniquely special again, for everyone, but we can only do it with the help of local people. Telling us what you want from the Harris and contributing to the campaign, if you can, will make all the difference.”
County Cllr Peter Buckley, Cabinet member for community and cultural services, said: “The Harris has been part of Preston life for so many years, providing opportunities for local people to discover a good book, or be inspired by art and creativity.
“Harris Your Place is a welcome opportunity for people to give their views and help how to shape the future of this grand building.
“The county council is proud to be part of this fascinating project, which aims to ensure that the Harris can continue to inspire and educate people for many years to come.”
To find out more or donate to the #HarrisYourPlace campaign, members of the public can go to bit.ly/harrisyourplace, drop in to the Harris shop, or send a cheque, payable to Friends of the Harris, to Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library, Market Square, Preston PR1 2PP.
For many people, the Harris building is synonymous with Preston – a well-loved, iconic emblem of the city. This is a crucial point in its history and future, which makes it a perfect time to engage with the public and find out what the city needs from its museum, gallery and library in the 21st Century.
Consultation will include everything from what the Harris displays and how it displays it, events, activities and workshop, to what a modern library looks and feels like. The Harris will be asking a series of questions online, throughout the building and occasionally popping out into the city, to find out what the residents and visitors of Preston and Lancashire really want.