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.
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 of 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 unlocks 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.
A recent acquisition is the dress worn by the subject of one of the main paintings in the art collection. Strangely the dress looks better in the painting as it is displayed fully buttoned but worn loosely in the painting. Interesting also the explanation of how the painting was obtained during the war at a cost of £1000.
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).
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.
'Jon Finch has been chosen as the man to take this vision forward. Appointed by the Project Board, Jon has a wealth of experience in the museum, library and cultural sectors, both in the UK and Australia. He has also worked with the Harris Museum and Lancashire County Council library service in the past.
The first priority for the re-imagining project is to develop a new shared vision for the Harris as a major focal point for Arts and Culture in Preston, bringing together the museum and art gallery functions with the library.' Ref Preston Council Website.May 2015 Re-inventing the Harris in Preston - advert for a project leader (closes 18th June 2015)
Plans to re-invent the Harris to be more flexible and visitor friendly are being put into action. The notice of a situation vacant on Preston Council Website. We'll leave this here to see how it develops.
Posted: Friday, May 29th 2015
Job Title: Re-Imagining the Harris – Project Leader
Organisation: Preston City Council
Salary: £52,207 - 54,476 p.a.Full-Time Position
Contract: three years
Location: Preston, England
Closing Date: Thursday, June 18th, 2015
Job Ref No: CUMU04001
Customer Services. This is an exciting opportunity for an experienced cultural leader to help Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council create an innovative shared service which will bring together the landmark Harris Museum & Art Gallery and Harris Library. You will lead the development of an aspirational and sustainable plan for a cohesive public offer and for the Grade I listed building.
The services are currently run separately by the two Councils which have agreed to seek significant capital investment for the Harris. Our vision is that the Harris will be a beacon for the cultural aspirations of the city, serving local people and fulfilling its potential as a regional visitor attraction.
This new post is jointly funded by both Councils to lead a review of options, develop a business case for the shared services, manage organisational change. The project includes the preparation of a Round 1 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a major capital development that reflects the needs of the services and its users and secures the heritage assets. We have secured a Museum Resilience Fund grant from Arts Council England for the procurement of specialist studies to support this project.
Applicants must have a proven track record leading change in cultural heritage organisations and be skilled in managing the political interface and developing partnerships.
To discuss this post further please contact Alex Walker on 01772 905400 or Neil Fairhurst on 01772 906067
Interview date 8 July 2015 (subject to confirmation)
RE-IMAGINING THE HARRIS – PROJECT LEADER
INFORMATION FOR CANDIDATES
The Re-Imagining the Harris project will develop an innovative jointly managed service which will bring together Preston City Council’s Harris Museum and Art Gallery with Lancashire County Council’s Harris Library to create a cohesive and sustainable public offer. The project will maximise the potential of the Harris by creating inspiring visitor-focussed experiences and making the Harris a cultural flagship in the region.
The Harris Library, Museum and Art Gallery was founded in the late 19th century, made possible by the bequest of Edmund Robert Harris who left £300,000 to Preston on his death in 1878 and the enlightened ambition of Preston Corporation which contributed an equivalent sum to acquire and develop the site right at the heart of the town. Photographs and paintings of the time show that the arrival of the Harris building had an astonishing effect on the townscape as timber framed buildings, on a street layout which dated from the middle ages, were replaced with a monumental four square Neo-Classical building constructed from massive slabs of Longridge stone. More than a century later the building remains the most striking construction in the city centre and one which inspires great affection for many Prestonians.
The Harris was founded by a group of eminent Prestonians, among them James Hibbert, who as architect, Alderman and Chairman of the Libraries and Arts Committee had a powerful influence on the original vision for the Harris. Although expressed in Victorian language there is much of the founders’ original ambition for the Harris which remains relevant including a commitment to providing a high quality of experience and serving the whole community and which is reflected in our Mission, Vision and Values today.
Until 1974 the library, museum and art gallery were run by Preston Corporation. Following a major re-organisation of local government at the time the services were split with libraries becoming a County function. The museum and art gallery, collections and building remained with the new Preston Borough (now City) Council. The County Council entered into a user rights agreement which enabled it to continue to operate within a defined footprint making up about 40% of the floorspace of the building. The new shared service will enable us to review the Masterplan for the building and to operate more flexibly.
Harris Museum & Art Gallery
Today the Harris Museum & Art Gallery is recognised as one of the leading museums in the region. The museum and art gallery combines working closely with and for our local community with developing a national and international reputation for quality and innovative programming and contributing to the local visitor economy as a major tourist attraction. We attract around 200,000 visits a year.
The Harris Museum and Art Gallery has undergone considerable development over the past decade. We have developed our public services and to made improvements to the galleries including a £0.5M development of the ceramics and glass gallery and a £1.6M refurbishment of the history gallery, ‘Discover Preston’ which opened in 2012.
The art gallery won the prestigious Contemporary Art Society Annual Award in 2014 which has enabled us to commission a new film by Nathaniel Mellors which will be made in the city this summer and launched in a major exhibition in early 2016. We have also recently been successful in our application to join Plus Tate. We are in discussions with the Courtauld Gallery to develop a partnership which will enable us to bring major loans to Preston alongside a range of other partnership initiatives, including public facing activities which will include participation by communities who formed the workforce of the Courtauld textile manufacturing industry in Preston.
Other important relationships include a long association with the University of Central Lancashire including with the In Certain Places, a programme of artistic interventions and events in the city including a number in the environs of the Harris. Most notable of these was Harris Flights in summer 2013 which saw a temporary staircase installed from the Market Square to the first floor of the building which over four weeks was the focus of over 60 cultural activities including new commissions responding to the Harris and its collections. Harris Flights was shortlisted for a Marketing Lancashire annual award.
The Harris is a member of Preston Museums Group, a collaborative supportive network of five local museums and Preston History Network. The work of the museum and art gallery is not confined to within the walls of the building but also to other events and activities with multiple partners such as those associated with the Preston Remembers WW1 commemorative programme and events this year to mark the 300th anniversary of the battle of Preston.
The Harris Museum & Art Gallery was an early adopter of a community focussed approach - developing exhibitions and participatory projects with local residents since the 1990s. With this new phase in our history we will embed customer focus and user participation in shaping the service at every stage of the project.
The Harris library is one of the larger libraries in Lancashire with 500,000 visitors per year. In 2014-15 it issued 292,000 items (books, DVDs, CDs, etc) and there were 104,000 computer sessions. The key focus is reading, learning and information and the promotion of the library as a key community and cultural space. The library hosts a wealth of local history information and takes an active role in promoting subjects such as family history to the public with regular free workshops. Additionally the Harris has a historic collection of materials, including a number of special collections with items dating back to the 18th century. Our ambition is to promote these resources more widely in the coming years and work jointly with the museum service on projects which will allow this to happen.
The Harris library takes pride in the range of regular community activities as well as special events. The library offer includes core children's activities such as story times, Baby Bounce and Rhyme and supporting local nurseries and schools in the promotion of reading. The library also engages with its adult users with the offer of various activities ranging from traditional reading groups to a craft group and extending to conversation groups for ESOL users and a Welsh language group. As a community service we also work in partnership with various organisations, in particular to support health and wellbeing activities.
The Harris has a youth forum and for the past two years has held a well-attended and received, comic con style open evening "talk nerdy to me". The library hosts Lancashire's HQ for Blaze (ACE funded arts organisation) and works together with them to promote arts to young people.
We have over 50 public networked terminals for the public to use, backing up our digital and learning offer with extensive support in teaching people IT skills. The digital offer also forms the basis of our support for employability, inclusive of our own job club and access to partner organisations.
Re-Imagining the Harris Project Board
The shared service development project is being overseen by a Project Board made up of officers of both Councils, reporting to a Collaboration Board which is leading the city centre regeneration.
The following text is the outline of the project agreed by the Project Board at their first meeting. .
INTRODUCTION TO THE PROJECT
• The scope of the project is, based on –
- the wishes of the Collaboration Board,
- the Cabinet reports that was approved by PCC and LCC
- Museum Resilience Fund application to Arts Council England for Re-Imagining the Harris
• There is a shared ambition to see the Harris fulfilling its full potential as a cultural hub for Preston and Lancashire, and as a cultural tourism destination
• We need an aspirational but sustainable plan for the services and for the building itself
• Both the Councils have agreed to ring fence the revenue budgets of the services for three years while a shared service can be explored and developed
• As stated in PCC Cabinet report ‘These arrangements can only be determined following a full review of the options and consideration of a business case that identifies the benefits to be achieved for each partner.’
• To this end both Councils have agreed to jointly fund a new post, initially for three years, to lead this review.
• The project has four main strands
- To develop a new shared vision for the Harris as a major focal point for Arts and Culture in Preston
- to develop a management and service delivery structure for the successful delivery of the new vision that offers opportunities for efficiency savings and improved visitor experience
- to develop a capital development scheme using the pooled Capital Budget provision of both Councils and to attract additional external investment (HLF and other sources)
- to explore commercial income generation opportunities
• PCC has been successful in attracting £100,000 of external funding (£95K from ACE, £5K from Friends of the museum) to support specialist studies over the next 2 years. In addition both Councils have allocated £10,000. This will enable us to procure -
- Project Mentor (procured May 2015),
- Transformational change facilitation,
- Commercial generation opportunities appraisal,
- Research and piloting interpretive masterplan,
- Revised building masterplan.
(draft briefs have been prepared)
- and carry out a pilot project to build relationship between staff teams (under way).
These pieces of work were planned because, based on advice and our previous experience of major HLF funded projects, they are required to develop the evidence to include in an HLF Round 1 application. This work should enable us to arrive at a position where :
- we have an agreed business plan for taking the Harris services forward that enable the aspirations that each Council has for its services both individually and collectively
- we care able to develop a plan for the capital refurbishment of the building that both reflects the needs of the services and its users and secures the heritage assets.Required Skills: EMPLOYEE
SPECIFICATION Closing Date: 12noon, 18th June 2015
Dept: Customer Services Section: Harris
Re-Imagining the Harris – Project Leader Grade CO
£52,207 - £54,476
E A degree or equivalent qualification in a relevant subject
HD A post-graduate qualification in related subject (museum studies, library studies, cultural leadership, arts administration etc)
D A professional museum or library qualification
E Ability to develop and communicate a vision for the building and its services.
E Ability to lead and motivate teams and individuals toward a common vision or goal
E Decision making skills at strategic and operational levels
Strategic and operational planning
E Knowledge of and experience of using planning frameworks to achieve corporate and
E Ability to manage resources effectively and efficiently
E Familiarity with project management approaches, tools and phases of the project lifecycle
E Ability to plan, implement and evaluate change effectively
E Ability to work with others to move towards a common vision or goal
Communication and relationships
E Excellent written and interpersonal communication skills
E Excellent negotiation skills
E Ability to advocate for and represent the service
E Excellent active listening skills
E Skilled in stakeholder engagement
Cultural sector knowledge
E Ability to demonstrate a clear knowledge and understanding of national and regional
issues facing cultural development and services.
E Ability to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the social and economic impact of
cultural activity and in particular of museums, art galleries and libraries.
E Understanding of the needs of users and commitment to consultative and participative
approach to shaping service.
E Demonstrable leadership experience in a cultural organisation
E Demonstrable and relevant experience in a senior managerial capacity including business
E Strategic management responsibility at a senior level
E Working with external organisations, stakeholders and partnerships
E Track record of enabling wide range of people to engage with and benefit from culture
HD Working with elected members and senior and middle managers in local authority
E Managing substantial revenue and capital resources
E Raising substantial external revenue funding from funding bodies, trusts and foundations
E Successful major fundraising for capital projects
E Delivering major capital projects
HD Income generation from commercial activities
E A passion for arts, heritage and learning
E Resilient and tenacious with a propensity to persevere
E Flexible and adaptable and able to work in ambiguous situations.
NB E Essential
HD Highly Desirable
Apply online at http://www.preston.gov.uk/jobs alternatively, telephone the 24 hour recruitment line on 01772 906914, quoting the vacancy reference number for an application pack.
Contact Name: Ms Alex Walker
Contact Tel: 01772 905400
Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: Town Hall, Lancaster Road, Preston,