Photo of the Harris Museum and Art Gallery
The Harris Art Gallery, Museum and Library is Preston's focal point building. Grade 1 listed and a very fine late 19th Century building with a large balcony area overlooking the old Flag Market (flag as in paving stone).
The building was funded by the legacy of Edmund Robert Harris 1803-77, his incredible legacy also funded several other fine education and health buildings which still exist. Read more about Edmund Harris in our history section, page 2
Special events such as sporting successes are celebrated from the balcony as crowds applaud in the market square. In late August and on the 1st September 2012 Preston Guild was proclaimed as it has been every 20 years for hundreds of years.
The building also has a fine aspect from Friargate.
A new director, Jon Finch, has been appointed to re-imagine the Harris and further develop it as a cultural hub and tourist attraction. There is ambition and vision.
In August 2016 Hemingway Design have been contracted to interpret the public interface and Purcell, the conservation architects, to design the adaptation.
In October 2016 Preston Council website contains the image below showing a new front into the Flag Market and mentions re-opening the entrance on Lancaster Road.
October 2017 the Re-imagining didn't get the Heritage Lottery Funding and needs some re-shaping mainly to get the councils to commit their funding and to create a single team by transferring Lancashire's staff to Preston Council. Also to ensure buy-in by the citizens of the front reshaping. This will take an extra year's funding as well.
The centre of the building is topped by a large glass lantern from which hangs a metal ball that swings with the earth's rotation and gently precesses anti-clockwise. This Foucault Pendulum, named after the French scientist who first displayed it, has given me that unexplainable sense of awe and wonder of our planet for over 50 years and still does.
The ground floor holds the Lancashire library which is useful as you can borrow books there and take them back locally in Lancashire unlike the unitary councils who are limited to their own. There is a small shop selling tasteful momentos, books and cards, and a cafe in the central part next to the Foucault Pendulum.
The 1st floor has the Discover Preston display which was upgraded in 2012 at great expense to show the history of Preston, photo below, and perfume bottles. There is also the Reference Library.
The Discover Preston display has the 12,000 year old Poulton Elk as its main feature and it is possible to listen to it. There is a collection of Elk heads and a wooden canoe found in the River Ribble during excavation of the docks. Cotton, gold thread, film producers, temperance, Park School, Bleasdale, Arkwright: there is a wide range of displays. Football as well, Preston North End.
There is also a coin display that won a prize in 2015.
The 2nd floor has a modern and fine art section and a display of clothing. The modern art and clothing displays are frequently changed. In May 2006 there is a display of the drawings done by animals and plants (sic) which is fascinating and imaginative.
The building was started in 1882 and completed in 1893. A very large bequest of £300,000 had ben left to Preston Corporation by Edmund Robert Harris, a local lawyer. It was in memory of his father Reverand Robert Harris who had been vicar of St Georges for 64years. He also had the main college named after him, the Harris College, now the University of Central Lancashire and the Harris Institute and an Orphanage. The architect was James Hibbert.
It is free to enter and is open every day, please check their website for special displays, talks, tours.http://www.harrismuseum.org.uk/
The Friends of the Harris are a group with a special interest in the building and its collections. They meet, have events and talks and collect funds that help to unlock grants towards new exhibits and improvements. Their webpage is on the Harris Museum and Art Gallery website: Click here.
An example of their activity is the tour we recently attended: Art gallery tour: With A Little Help from the Friends Thurs 15 Nov 2012, 1-1.40pm. Interesting walk round the fine art gallery showing items funded with help from the Friends of the Harris.
Another acquisition, with the National Portrait Gallery, is a painting of Richard Arkwright, born in Preston and inventor of the mechanised water frame cotton spinning machine.
Curator and Art Director at the Harris between 1929 and 1959.
Said to have transformed the Harris with the objective of making it 'a hub of the north' and set out to specialise in artists' works of Lancashire, which the annual Open Exhibition at the Harris is an example. He also wrote several books one being 'The Devis Family of Painters' an artistic dynasty which originated in Preston. (ref the poster below from the Fylde Gallery, Booths, Lytham, Oct 2016).
Local artists display their work. Click here to read our report on the blog
Preston Street Style Autumn 2017
Lancashire Festival of Art, work by UCLan students June to 2nd July 2017
Interesting exhibition with a good soundtrack.
After a public collection the restored and cleaned painting was re-hung at the Harris in August 2016 and exhibited with a collection of etchings of a similar scene.
A matter of taste but for us this is the best exhibition at the Harris in 2016. In a word it's 'uplifting'. A big collection of Michael Foreman's work which would appeal to children and adults. Painting in a simple outline and washed colour style often used in comics it nevertheless offers a sense of detail and emotion. Michael being a small child during the war says this made him opposed to conflict. He also took to painting and held close to the lasting comment of his teacher in his earliest lessons to 'go outside and paint what you see'. He followed this advice all over the world.
The exhibition is nicely presented using all 3 of the large exhibition rooms and having tables for people to try their hand at painting and a smaller room setting to display particular themes. These themes include the war paintings, the tortoise brought back from Galipolli that lived for 90 years, his children's fantasies, worldwide painting. On the wall are motifs, mainly quite lifting, related to the themes. You could really relate to them.
Almost 400 entries of several styles including pottery. Photo of local scenes:
Art from other galleries portraying life in other countries. This was one of the best exhibitions for a while although a Green and Pleasant Land was also very good. Ideas of life in Communist Central Europe, life of an Algerian in Paris, life in Bombay and on borders plus a lot more. Thought stimulating.
The simple scene below touches five of the displays, each developing their own stimulating thoughts.
Style & Substance: Fashion, Society, Change 1880 to 1930s 18th July 2015
A dress in the exhibition:
World War 1 clothing:
Pauline in the Yellow Dress and the Rossall Hoard 8th January 2015
The Harris Museum bought the painting by Sir James Gunn in 1944 for £1000 and more recently obtained the dress. Until 28th Feb, an exhibition of the life of Sir James Gunn and display of paintings held in private collections.
A display at the Harris of the Rossall Hoard found at Rossall near Fleetwood. The collection is very finely made on very small coins, dating from around the year 400. It is believed the original hoard was dated from 200 and that this was mistakenly sold in its place. An appeal for information about the auction in 1844 has been made.
Conservation Day 11th October 2014 including Marian Clayden exhibition
The Marian Clayden exhibition of tie dyed clothing. Marian was born in Penwortham and moved to California via Australia.
Emma Heslewood, curator, cleans the ceremonial wheelbarrow used while removing the first turf for the railway in Preston.
Storing and cataloguing shoes and other accessories.
Cleaning coins. New displays are being created for the museum.
Cataloguing Beattie's paintings.
Marian Clayden 'dyers journey' display.
30th August 2014
'Behind the Scenes' exhibition in late 2013 shows how the 1000's of textiles in many forms that form the collection at the Harris are preserved, and how students from all over the world make use of this resource. A photo of part of the display:
2011 marks the 250th anniversary of the donation of the Shepherd Library to Preston. Some of the rare books were displayed around the building until 26th May 2012. The library was donated by the Preston doctor Richard Shepherd (1694-1761).
More recently a display of books by the Preston born author Angela Brazil are on display on the landing. November 2012
Click below to see:
Harris Flights, a staircase into the museum for one month only in 2013. Nice way to enter, good view from the top.
Click on the link above to go to the original description of the task..