Re-Imagining The Harris

In a great start to 2019, the The Harris Museum, Art Galley and Library has been awarded development funding of £180,900 by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is a key addition to funding commitments of £3.6 million already in place from Arts Council England, Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council, and the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal.

This January’s award of £180,900 is to prepare for a full National Lottery grant application in 2020 for £4.7million that will, if successful, make up the full £10.7million required by the ‘Re-imagining the Harris Project’ to develop, diversity and secure The Harris for future generations.

UCLan’s Institute of Citizenship, Society and Change (ICSC) congratulates The Harris staff and Preston City Council for the hard work and vision which has led to this achievement. The ICSC is proud to support this project through the evaluation expertise and research capacity of the Psychosocial Research Unit. It reflects ICSC’s core interest in processes of civic renewal. We are excited by its potential to create new forms of citizen engagement with the arts, technologies, artefacts and histories that shape our world.

The ‘Re-Imagining The Harris’ project

The Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library occupies its own purpose built Grade I Neo-Classical Listed Building in the heart of Preston City Centre, and is considered one of the great cultural and architectural jewels of Lancashire. Local citizens are rightly proud of it.

Opened to the public in 1893, with the inscription ‘To Literature, Arts and Science’ above its columns, it has served the people of its city and county for over 125 years. Now, with around one thousand visitors per day, through its combined functions of museum, art gallery and public library, The Harris is important centre for culture, knowledge and innovation.

The ‘Re-Imagining The Harris’ project was initiated by Preston City Council in partnership with Lancashire County Council in 2015. As well as securing and renovating the fabric of the historic building, the project will grow the work of the Harris, enabling it to reach out to new audiences and play a pivotal role in bringing together different economic and cultural sectors in Preston city and region. The institution aspires in the vanguard of a ‘civic turn’ among regional museums and already blends gallery spaces, public library and temporary exhibitions and civic amenities. It is ideally placed to re-combine and re-invent these roles for the technological and social challenges of the 21st century. As Preston City Council explains:

‘The project aims to create thoroughfares through the building, encouraging both day and evening footfall by utilising existing entrance ways that are currently disused. Visitors will be able to engage with the collections in a new way, not only in traditional galleries but also woven into other public areas such as cafes and activity areas. The Harris’ ambition is to be a focal point for creativity and making, digital technology, learning and reading’.

At the end of 2018, a Preston City Council launched its new consultation on The Harris. Simultaneously the local registered charity ‘Friends of the Harris’ are promoting a fundraising and engagement campaign #HarrisYourPlace.


Announcing these developments, Preston City Council describes the aims as:

A better welcome for more people: A new entrance and welcome on Lancaster Road, with a lift and stairway, as well as toilets, lockers, buggy store and changing places toilet.

The first blended library, museum and art gallery in the UK – in a beautifully refurbished, animated space: Community-led displays, encouraging learning and interaction for all ages, with rarely-seen objects on display, such as the previously hidden historic book collection. More chances for people to get creative and artists to show their work. Repairs to roof, stonework, windows and services so that the Harris is attractive, protected and fit for the future.

An inspirational central hub: A dynamic hive of activity on the ground floor rotunda. New displays blending books, art and heritage along with a better café, shop and digital access as well as a space for meetings, events and entertainment.

A richer visitor experience: We will use the stories of Preston and Lancashire people to create pathways across our collections, themed around playing, exploring, questioning, creating and connecting. These will inspire local people and help provide a safe, welcoming, trusted and accessible place for everyone, including those most in need in Preston.

Support for the local economy: We will increase our visitors by 100,000 per year to 460,000; many of them tourists who will spend in local shops, cafes and restaurants. We will provide facilities which help retain local artists, designers, makers and creatives in Preston, especially recent UCLan graduates, to develop their careers and create new businesses. We will also provide commercial partnership and promotional/sponsorship opportunities for businesses. We are already being supported by Preston & South Ribble City Deal.

The role of UCLan and the Institute of Citizenship, Society and Change (ICSC).

The University of Central Lancashire and The Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library are both twin civic ‘anchor institutions’ within Preston and Lancashire. In a turbulent and fluid global economic situation, they are ‘anchored’ within and committed to particular place, local economy and civil society.

UCLan, The Harris and the local authorities share commitments to Preston’s civic and economic renewal, promoting arts and wellbeing in the city, developing resources for artists, producers and others in the local creative economy, along with promoting city development based upon world leading, high impact research.

The ICSC is UCLan’s new transdisciplinary research hub, established to connect research in the arts, humanities and social sciences with architecture, engineering, healthcare and other sciences. Our mission is to develop new kinds of knowledge production partnerships with professional, civic and community organisations that can find solutions to the challenges of civic renewal, sustainability and social equality and justice.

UCLan’s many schools and faculties, including engineering and design, the arts, media and social sciences and many more, all have a wealth of knowledge, experience and research capacities that can be brought together together to support this process of local civic renewal. UCLan’s new transdiciplinary institute, the ICSC, has been established to help achieve this.

As a unique combination of museum, art gallery and public library, The Harris is the memory bank of Lancashire. Evidence of all the great historic forces – social, economic, cultural, political and technological – that made contemporary Lancashire may be found here. It is therefore a key site where our diverse communities may understand our past and present – and re-imagine and re-invent our collective futures.

More information on the Re-imagining The Harris project:

Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library page on Re-imagining The Harris

Preston Guild City on Re-imagining The Harris

UCLan Psychosocial Research Unit


Photo credits.
Top image: Baresi franco [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, from Wikimedia Commons

Bottom Image: Rept0n1x [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, from Wikimedia Commons

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