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The Harris Celebrates 130 Years of Culture, Community, and Innovation

25 October 2023

The Harris, one of Preston's most iconic cultural institutions, is thrilled to announce its 130th anniversary on the 26 October 2023. This remarkable milestone is not only a celebration of history but also a testament to The Harris' commitment to progress and transformation.

Since its beginning in 1893, The Harris has been a beacon of culture and learning in the heart of Preston. Over the past century and a quarter, it has evolved into a vibrant hub for the community, a treasure trove of knowledge, and a space where creativity thrives.

To mark this momentous occasion, The Harris is embracing the future with the Harris Your Place project, an ambitious £16 million undertaking aimed at redefining its role in the 21st century. This visionary project is restoring and reimagining The Harris as a space that bridges the past and the future, a community, cultural, and learning centre that engages and inspires all.

Councillor Peter Kelly, Cabinet member for Arts and Culture at Preston City Council, said:

"As we celebrate The Harris's 130th anniversary, we are not just looking back on history, but forward to a future where culture, community, and innovation unite. The Harris Your Place project is a testament to our commitment to enriching lives and preserving our heritage. Together, we embark on a journey where the past inspires the future"

Architecture of Innovation

Designed by James Hibbert in the neoclassical style, the building has long been admired for its grandeur. The intricate detailing and magnificent facade has made The Harris an iconic Preston landmark for over a century. The Harris Your Place project, while preserving the building's historic charm, will incorporate modern elements that ensure it remains a symbol of innovation and progress.

A Tapestry of History

The Harris has a rich history that spans more than a century. From its early days as a gift to the people of Preston by Edmund Robert Harris to its evolution into a vibrant cultural institution, The Harris has continually adapted to the changing needs of the community. The Harris Your Place project will honour this legacy by creating spaces that celebrate the history and heritage of the building, offering visitors the opportunity to connect with Preston's past.

Celebrating 130 years

As The Harris celebrates its remarkable 130th birthday, it's inspiring to reflect on how far it's come since the very first day of opening. Back in 1893, the doors were opened by Lord Derby and welcomed eager visitors following a procession through the city centre. Speeches, prayers and performances from the Bijou Naval orchestra accompanied by a chorus of thirty voices were highlights of the celebratory opening event.

Today, as The Harris prepares to reopen in 2025, the Harris Your Place capital project is set to ensure the highest standards of safety, quality, and preservation for the treasured Grade I listed building. The commitment to preserving the Grade I listed building has evolved with the times, incorporating accessibility enhancements and a renewed focus on community empowerment, ensuring the reopening in 2025 is nothing short of extraordinary.

The Harris invites everyone to join in celebrating its 130th anniversary by visiting The Harris Library in The Guild Hall, Preston and writing a message in The Harris' birthday card. This milestone represents not just a historical achievement but also a commitment to shaping the future of culture, community, and education in Preston.

For more information about The Harris's 130th-anniversary celebrations and the Harris Your Place project, please visit The Harris - Harris Your Place Project

Further information

About the Harris

Opened in 1893, the Grade I listed building is owned and managed by Preston City Council. Based in Preston, Lancashire, the Harris is one of the leading museums, galleries and libraries in the region. Host to art collections of national significance, exciting activities and events for all ages and an award-winning contemporary art programme, the Harris welcomed over 380,000 visitors in 2018/2019. 

We are currently delivering Harris Your Place, a major capital project made possible with support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund; Towns Fund; Preston City Council; Lancashire County Council; the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal; DCMS; Arts Council England, public donations and a wide range of Trusts and Foundations.

We will re-open our magnificent Grade I Listed building in 2025 and are already working with Community Partners to deliver a programme of events and activities throughout closure and from day one of re-opening.

For information on wider business and investment projects taking place across the city centre see Preston City Centre investment and development projects.