Collections Development


The Collections Development Policy has been developed by the staff of the Harris Museum & Art Gallery.

It is a significant development on the previous Acquisitions & Disposals Policy which we hope is signalled in the new name of Collections Development Policy. We feel this more accurately reflects its scope and ambition. It is written in the context of the national museums' strategy Collections for the Future, and the MA's revised Code of Ethics for Museums (2008).

Click here to download the policy.

The policy is aspirational and in this we are directly reflecting the original intent of the Harris's founders. Our Victorian founders thought big – and as a result Preston, a city of 130,000 people, now has a museum building and collection which would be the jewel in the crown of much larger cities.

In developing this policy we are seeking to enhance the quality and depth of the collections overall and build on our existing strengths as Lancashire's foremost museum for fine and decorative arts, costume and history and contemporary art programming. 

We want to extend key areas of the collection, and themes within the collections. In certain areas we
intend to carry out reviews to inform our policy.

The Harris is Preston's museum and we will acquire historical objects which add to
the overall understanding of our city, and its place in the world. Proud Preston has a
long and remarkable history which the unique Guild celebrations in 2012 will bring
into focus.

The Harris has a reputation for thought provoking exhibitions of contemporary and
historical art and design, for working with artists and commissioning new works, and
for illuminating the lives of people past and present from the Preston area.
This work will also inform our collecting. We recognise that it may, on occasion, be
appropriate to experiment and take risks – for example by commissioning and
purchasing new art. However, risk will always be mitigated by factors including our
own highly knowledgeable staff, research and consultation with external specialists.

We want to enable people to participate in our collections development. We draw
on the expertise and enthusiasm of volunteers who help us care for and document
the collections and those whose stories illuminate and add significance to the
objects we hold. We wish our collections to reflect changing times and new
audiences; the social context of the city with its new communities and its dynamic
and expanding university has changed the profile of our visitors. Independent
research has shown that our visitor profile of local visitors closely mirrors the
demographics of the city – and that Prestonians are proud of the Harris.
We also know that the Harris attracts visitors from all over the UK, especially for
specialist collections and for our high profile exhibitions.

Constraints on collecting, including restricted funds available for purchases, will be
acutely felt by all museums in the next few years. However, we want to be in a
position to respond to new opportunities which may help us to develop in ways that
we might not be able to anticipate at this stage, while remaining true to our vision
for the Harris. For example, in previous years the Harris had its own cumulative art
fund which was used strategically to provide match for fundraising. Although we no
longer have this fund, we are working with the Friends of the Harris to create a
purchase fund which will enable us to acquire significant works as a legacy of the
2012 Guild.

In autumn 2010 the Friends launched a public appeal using the Big Give programme,
for the first time using modern fundraising tools such as online donations.

New funding schemes also present opportunities, for example the Heritage Lottery
Fund (HLF) Collecting Cultures programme is enabling us to acquire 20th century
ceramics and to make the most significant addition to our ceramics collection since
the 1950s. We are also supported by more traditional means of funding, such as
the Harris Trust which uses the residue of the original Harris bequest to fund
additions to the museum. These local sources, although relatively modest, have
proved invaluable in helping us lever in substantial grant aid from sources including
the V&A/DCMS Purchase Fund, The Art Fund, the Contemporary Art Society
(CAS), HLF and others.

We would like to develop more strategic alliances such as the one we formed in
2009 with the National Portrait Gallery. By pooling our resources we were able to
jointly purchase a nationally significant portrait of Sir Richard Arkwright which is
shared between London and Preston.

Collections are the lifeblood of museums. We are privileged to have remarkable
collections built up over more than a century. We benefit from the generous
bequests and gifts of innumerable benefactors and from the wise, and sometimes
daring, acquisitions of our predecessors. We hope to continue to enrich and
invigorate the collections and hope to pass on to future generations of Harris
visitors acquisitions which delight, inspire and inform.

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