The Harris Museum and Art Gallery hosts an incredible collection within its neo-classical walls.
Starting with The Poulton Elk, a 10,000-year-old skeleton pronounced as showing the first signs of human presence in the area when it was chanced upon in the 1970s, a wander through the stairwells and across the floorboards takes you on a journey from skulls found on the docks thousands of years ago to photos and pottery from the industrial revolution.
The institution itself is steeped in history, housed in a glorious Grade I-listed neo-classical building which has towered above the city since being built under the designs of architect James Hibbert in 1893, and recent displays have included Simon Faithfull’s Recent Findings – which was responsible for floating a fake moon over the local bus station – and festival favourite The House of Fairy Tales.
2012 is a momentous year for the city, marking the Preston Guild celebrations, a tradition taking place every 20 years to mark the craft town status given to Preston by King Henry 832 years ago.
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They’ve got extra reason to celebrate thanks to a £1.1 million Lottery grant towards a new Guild Gallery, filling the place with historical objects to tell the story of Preston.
“It will enable the Harris Museum to provide the very best history experience for local people and visitors to the city in Guild Year and beyond,” believes Councillor Ken Hudson, who says the grant represents “a wonderful achievement” for the City Council he leads.
“Many local individuals and organisations helped make the gallery happen. We now look forward to the hard work ahead to get the gallery open in 2012.”
For the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project will be one of three announced today for heritage displays, building renovations and education programmes across the country.
In Oxford, the hugely popular University Church of St Mary the Virgin – a forerunner to the Bodleian library which boasts the city’s tallest spire and was originally used for academic meetings during the 13th century – has won £3.4 million for vital repairs and training for 200 local people.
A £2.8 million grant will also be given to Torre Abbey, the Torbay Medieval monastery with an impressive art collection, to turn the top floor of the building into a gallery with learning space.
“The range of projects, in all corners of the country, highlights the wonderful variety of cultural heritage which is supported by HLF funding,” says John Penrose, the Minister for Tourism and Heritage.
“This is fantastic news not only for the heritage projects themselves but also for the wider community as a whole.”