Proposed Plans To Revitalize The Harris in Preston City Centre
Nov, 9 2020
For something to continue it’s longevity it needs a radical makeover. For a human being they could turn to surgery to enhance their looks and appearance. For a building, however it needs more than fancy touch ups. It needs to create something personal and welcoming so that everyone of all ages can frequently return and appreciate it’s beauty.
The Harris Museum and Art Gallery has long been an established part of Preston city centre but now organisers are investing a considerable amount of money to give it a new look and improve the overall layout of the exterior and interior of the building.
This includes creating a community resource and world-class gallery and exhibition space fit for the future. In addition, proposals would reveal some of the Harris’ original architectural details, which have previously been hidden.
Simply called ‘The Harris Your Place’ project it would ultimately establish itself as the UK’s first blended museum, art gallery and library. Collections would cover gallery areas, the café, shop and new developments for children, young people and community groups.
These plans are deliberately designed to encourage more people to visit the Harris on a daily basis. Currently under half a million visitors attend the building each year. Long term designs would mean removing the existing stairs and introduce more accessible stairs and an appropriate lift for those with mobility problems.
These improvements also mean more of the Harris’ collections will be displayed, which include:-
- Historic books
- Digital art
Discussions have already been ongoing for some time with a variety of people knowledgeable about the proposed work. The long term vision for the Harris is seen by many in the building and planning profession as a learning, cultural and community space fit for the 21st century.
It’s hoped £4.5 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund will be invested into the project this month. Backed by £3.6 million from other sources including the following:-
- Preston City Council
- Lancashire County Council
- The Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal
- Arts Council England
- Local supporters including members of the public and the Friends of the Harris.
Melanie Close, CEO of Disability Equality North West, reflects on the past and future position of the Harris,
“The Harris has been a treasured focus for cultural, social and civic life in Preston and indeed for Lancashire at large for more than 127 years. We now have an opportunity to restore, re-imagine and improve access to the building with these bold and ambitious plans. Investment in the building and careful consideration about its future use for all of the people in our community is essential if the Harris is to continue to be a source of inspiration, creativity and enjoyment for another 127 years.”
Works on the building will start in October 2021 if both the planning application and The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England support to deliver the project are approved.
^Alex Ashworth CCG Art Blogger