Preston City Council has launched a consultation as it awaits the outcome of a Lottery funding bid to improve facilities at the city’s combined museum, gallery and library, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary.
The Harris, a landmark in Market Square, receives around 1,000 visitors a day, but the council said it is need of critical repairs and refurbishment.
Consultation is to include everything from what the Harris displays and how it displays it, its events programme, and what the city’s people feel a modern library should look and feel like. The Harris will be asking a series of questions online, throughout the building and on the streets of Preston to form an evidence base.
Registered charity, the Friends of the Harris, has simultaneously launched its fundraising campaign, #HarrisYourPlace to support the programme.
Current outline plans include community-led, interactive displays blending books, art and historic objects inspired by the stories of Preston and Lancashire people; a central hub for activities on the ground floor; improved exhibition, event and meeting spaces; more opportunities for people to work on creative projects; better support for artists and businesses; and a new entrance, stairway and lift on the Lancaster Road side opposite Preston Guild Hall.
The council, which owns the building, submitted a joint bid with Lancashire County Council, which manages the library service, to the Heritage Lottery Fund in August for £4.7mn to support a total £10.7m project.
The bid is backed by £3.6m of funding already in place from both Councils, the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, Arts Council England and local supporters. The result of the HLF bid will be known in January 2019.
Architect Purcell and interpretive designer Leach Studio have been contracted through a tender process to work with the council’s first stage HLF application. Should January’s verdict be positive, the council will then undertake a new tender process for the architectural and interpretive design work through the development period until HLF stage two submission, likely to be mid-2020
Cllr Peter Kelly, cabinet member for culture & leisure at Preston City Council, said: “We have a one in 100 year opportunity to make the Harris uniquely special again, for everyone, but we can only do it with the help of local people. Telling us what you want from the Harris and contributing to the campaign, if you can, will make all the difference.”
To find out more or donate to the #HarrisYourPlace campaign, people are invited to visit the Harris shop or view #HarrisYourPlace online.