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What should happen to the Harris Museum and Art Gallery?

Posted on - 11th March, 2016 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, News, Preston City Centre, Preston Council
The Harris Museum was opened in 1893 Pic: Tony Worrall

The Harris Museum was opened in 1893 Pic: Tony Worrall

The people of Preston, and beyond, are being asked what they would like to see at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery.

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The new man in charge of the building, Jon Finch, has asked for people’s views on what he calls a ‘hugely loved Preston and Lancashire institution’.

Finch, who was brought in during August last year to lead what Preston City Council calls the re-imagining the Harris project, said: “We are creating a new, ambitious future for the Harris. A future with the Harris at the centre of a creative Preston, and at the heart of a thriving Lancashire.

“We’re talking about broadening our appeal, yet also ensuring we continue to provide a vibrant offer and visitor experience. It’s about seeking new investment and new opportunities to work more closely with communities and our burgeoning creative arts sector. It’s about being a supporter of future city centre re-development and a hub for cultural tourism and information.

“The vision is as ambitious as the challenges are real. Across Preston and Lancashire, council funding is being cut and, quite rightly, the Harris is not immune. So we have to be ambitious and look for new ways of funding and generating income – to make the Harris more sustainable. This will help stimulate new, multi-million pound external investment into the Harris to make it even more relevant in the 21st Century.

“That’s why we need your views. It’s your Harris – whether you use the Museum, Art Gallery, Library or all parts of the building. It’s a hugely loved Preston and Lancashire institution. Whatever we do needs to be done with great care, affection and attention to detail. We’d love to hear from you about how you would like to see the Harris move forward into the future.”

Looking down inside the Harris towards the cafe Pic: 70023venus2009

Looking down inside the Harris towards the cafe Pic: 70023venus2009

More than 500,000 visitors go through the doors of the Harris each year, which costs the city council around £1.4m a year to subsidies.

The consultation on the Harris comes as Lancashire County Council prepares to close the doors of the Museum of Lancashire, blaming central government budget cuts.

County councillor Jennifer Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “The Harris is a cultural icon for the whole of Lancashire. The Harris is also a beacon of arts and learning. It is a wonderful legacy for Preston and we have a duty to ensure the Harris legacy lives on for many, many generations to come.

“This new vision is crucial to ensuring multi-million pounds of external investment into the Harris that not only secures its future but enables the true potential of the Harris to be realised. The Harris is very special and has a special place in people’s hearts. I’m sure many people will be excited by the vision and keen to have their say too.”

It’s not known yet what funding is to be available for the Harris, but last summer the city council announced £95,000 had been secured from the Arts Council towards the museum.

Council leader, Peter Rankin, said: “This is an important moment for the Harris, an important moment for Preston and for Lancashire too. Peoples’ views are crucial in helping to shape the future that we all want for the Harris. There has been a huge amount of work done to get us to this point. Yet, in many ways the hard work starts now and the new vision is the first step on the way to a new future for the Harris.”

How do I give my views on the Harris?

Anyone wanting to tell Harris bosses what they think of the current museum, and library, are asked to log onto the Preston City Council website.

Will you be taking part in the consultation? What do you think of the Harris? Let us know in the comments below

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