Plans have been submitted to revitalise the Harris through a £10.7m scheme.
The plans aim to prevent the decay of the building while creating a community resource and world-class gallery and exhibition space fit for the future.
The proposals include works to reveal some of the Harris’ original architectural details, which have previously been hidden.
If approved, conservation works on the roof and basement will help to address the building’s long-standing damp problem.
The #HarrisYourPlace project seeks to establish the Harris as the UK’s first blended museum, art gallery and library. Collections would be on display not only in gallery areas, but also around the building such as in the café, shop and newly-created spaces for children, young people and community groups.
Proposed changes to the layout are designed to encourage more visitors of all ages and backgrounds to the Harris, which already welcomes just under half a million visitors per year.
The plans include accentuating an original entrance way to improve accessibility and introducing a new internal lift and staircase, replacing the aged fire exit stairs and helping visitors to move more easily between different floors and spaces.
A new Changing Places toilet on the ground floor will improve the building’s accessibility to disabled visitors.
The alterations to the internal layout would mean that more of the Harris’ collections of paintings, textiles, sculpture, photography, historic books and digital art can be displayed.
The concepts for #HarrisYourPlace have been put together following a successful bid for Round 1 development phase support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to develop the project and planning application.
Widespread consultation with local people, community groups and partners has shaped the proposals both for the conservation of the building and long-term vision for the Harris as a learning, cultural and community space fit for the 21st century.
A bid for £4.5m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to enable delivery of the project will be made in November. It will be backed by £3.6m of funding from Preston City Council, Lancashire County Council, the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, Arts Council England and local supporters including members of the public and the Friends of the Harris.
Melanie Close, CEO of Disability Equality North West, said: “The Harris has been a treasured focus for cultural, social and civic life in Preston and indeed for Lancashire at large for more than 127 years.
“Consultation has confirmed the pride that people feel towards not only this
iconic building and its collections but also the role it plays as a cornerstone of Preston’s identity.
“We now have an opportunity to restore, reimagine and improve access to the building with these bold and ambitious plans.
“Investment in the building and careful consideration about its future use for all of the people in our community is essential if the Harris is to continue to be a source of inspiration, creativity and enjoyment for another 127 years.”
Lancashire County Councillor Peter Buckley, cabinet member for community and cultural services, said: “It is hugely important for Lancashire that The Harris maintains its central role within our county’s rich heritage.
“Reaching such a major milestone for our iconic Grade I listed attraction is very positive news for Lancashire’s cultural economy.”
Works on the building will start in October 2021 if both the planning application and The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England support to deliver the project are approved.
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