Bosses submit £10m plans to transform Preston's Harris Museum

Ambitious plans to ‘restore and reimagine’ a Preston landmark have been submitted to planners.

Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 11:53 am
Updated Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 11:58 am

Bosses say the £10.7m scheme to revitalise Preston’s Harris museum, art gallery and library will mean the building will “continue to be a source of inspiration, creativity and enjoyment”.

The project, dubbed #HarrisYourPlace, will see the Grade I listed landmark become a focus for creativity and making, digital technology and learning for local people.

The proposals include works to reveal some of the Harris’ original architectural details, which have previously been hidden.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

An architectural model of proposed changes to Prestons Harris Museum, part of the 107m #HarrisYourPlace scheme, which will reveal some of the Harris original architectural details, which have previously been hidden. Image courtesy Buttress Architects Ltd

If approved, much-needed conservation works on the roof and basement will help to address the building’s long-standing damp problem, which poses a future threat to the Harris’ collections.

The project seeks to establish the Harris as the UK’s first blended museum, art gallery and library, with collections on display not only in gallery areas but also around the building, such as in the café, shop and newly-created spaces for children, young people and community groups.

Proposed changes to the layout are designed to encourage more visitors of all ages and backgrounds to the Harris, which already welcomes just under half a million visitors per year.

The plans include accentuating an original entrance way to improve accessibility and introducing a new internal lift and staircase, replacing the aged fire exit stairs and helping visitors to move more easily between different floors and spaces.

A new Changing Places toilet on the ground floor will improve the building’s accessibility to disabled visitors.

The alterations to the internal layout would mean that more of the Harris’ extensive collections of paintings, textiles, sculpture, photography, historic books and digital art - many of which are internationally significant - can be displayed.

Widespread consultation with local people, community groups and partners has shaped the proposals both for the conservation of the building and long-term vision for the Harris as a learning, cultural and community space fit for the 21st century.

A bid for £4.5m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to enable delivery the project will be made in November. It will be backed by £3.6m of funding from Preston City Council; Lancashire County Council; the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal; Arts Council England and local supporters including members of the public and the Friends of the Harris.

Opened in 1893, the Grade I listed building is owned and managed by Preston City Council.

Melanie Close, CEO of Disability Equality North West, said: “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.

“Consultation has confirmed the pride that people feel towards not only this iconic building and its collections but also the role it plays as a cornerstone of Preston’s identity.

“We now have an opportunity to restore, reimagine 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.”

Lancashire County Councillor Peter Buckley, cabinet member for community and cultural services, said: “It is hugely important for Lancashire that The Harris maintains its central role within our county’s rich heritage. Reaching such a major milestone for our iconic Grade I listed attraction is very positive news for Lancashire’s cultural economy.”

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.

For more information about the Harris, visit www.theharris.org.uk.

Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 per month for the first two months. Try us today by clicking here