Home to Lancashire's finest collection of dress and textiles, housed in a fabulous Grade I listed building, right in the heart of Preston.
Harris Museum & Art Gallery
The Harris is housed in a grand building in the classical style, designed by local architect James Hibbert. It overlooks the Flag Market - Preston's main public forum.
The Harris first opened to the public in the 1890s. And it is named in honour of Edmund Harris (1804-77), a local solicitor who left a huge sum of money to Preston to establish a museum and library.
Bands of embroidery
The Harris has a strong collection of embroidery from around the world, such as these sleeve bands from China.
In traditional Chinese dress women's jackets often have wide sleeves decorated with detachable bands of embroidery. With arms folded in front of the body these examples of needlework skill are displayed to great effect.
Ranging from banded alphabet samplers to those featuring stern religious verse, the Harris has over 160 samplers in its collection.
This hugely expressive example illustrates the biblical story of Jonah and the Whale. It freeze frames the very moment Jonah is being dangled over the side of the boat, about to be thrown into the stormy sea, and swallowed whole by a curly-tailed, jagged-toothed whale. Margaret Mather who stitched this example has certainly injected the scene with drama.
Darning is a practical type of needlework which imitates woven fabric. It is used for mending holes.
In this sampler holes have been cut and mended to create a reference work of darning techniques. Different coloured threads have been used to illustrate a range of different weaves. The result is an attractive set of geometric patterns.
This large-scale quilt was made in 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary of the independence of India from Britain. The word 'azadi' means freedom in Urdu.
Preston's Asian Well Women's group met every week for 6 months to create this quilt working with artist Lynn Setterington. Each woman took a square to work up at home or in the gallery. These individual efforts were then brought together to create the whole. The names of those involved in making the quilt are embroidered around the border.
The Textile Manufactures of India
In 1866 Preston was given a set of 700 South Asian textile samples in 18 volumes called The Textile Manufactures of India.
These volumes were compiled by John Forbes Watson who worked at the India Museum in London.
In 2012 the Harris worked with young people from Preston to digitise these volumes. All 700 fabrics can be explored online at at www.tmoi.org.uk - do take a look to see more of this wonderful collection.
Clothes made to celebrate the Preston Guild are another unique feature of the Harris collection.
These include party clothes, civic regalia and lots of fancy dress like this 'Red Rose of Lancashire' dress worn by Valerie Simpson aged 11 to a Preston Guild fancy dress ball in 1922.
Preston Guild is a civic celebration which takes place in the city every 20 years (the next one is in 2032 - put it in your diary).
In addition to clothes the Harris cares for a large collection of textiles commemorating the Guild.
This cheerful scarf was made to mark the 1952 Preston Guild - which was an especially joyous occasion. The Guild had been due to take place in 1942 but the war years made such an event impossible. When Preston finally celebrated its Guild in 1952 the town was really ready to party.
You can't talk about the Harris and Preston without talking about Horrockses Fashions.
Horrockses was the biggest name in cotton in the 1800s and 1900s - not just in Lancashire but around the world.
After the Second World War the company started a line of readymade frocks in fabulous printed cottons. This evening gown is one of over 40 Horrockses Fashions dresses in the collection.
Horrockses design archive
Along with Horrockses Fashions dresses, the Harris also cares for the company's design archive - including 12 bound volumes like the one illustrated here - used to showcase the firm's latest productions to potential buyers.
Each page includes a sample of fabric, a pencil sketch of the dress, and a black and white photograph showing the garment delightfully styled.
Visit us in Preston
The Harris is currently in the process of cataloguing all the fashion plates in its collection - we have over 2,000.
They range in date from the late 1700s to early 1900s and include all the major periodicals of the time. We hope to make these images available digitally in the future - so watch this space.
Nothing beats seeing things 'in the flesh', however; so if you are ever in Preston, with time to spare - then do visit us at the Harris. We look forward to welcoming you.
Photography copyright of Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston.