Photo of gold thread objects from the history collection

Our history collections include archaeology, ethnography, coins and medals, greetings cards, trade and cigarette cards, stamps, local history, music sheets and the Preston Guild.

August 2012 marked the opening of the flagship history gallery Discover Preston. This Preston Guild project has created an exciting new space at the Harris, and is set to inspire local people and visitors to the city and be a lasting legacy of the 2012 Guild.

The history collection was formed from a collection of historical curiosities that had been collected by the Cross Street Museum (Preston’s first museum) and then transferred to the new Harris Museum & Art Gallery in 1893.

It has since grown into a diverse collection of approximately 45,000 items, including archaeology, ethnography, coins and medals, greetings cards, trade and cigarette cards, philately, local history, music sheets and items relating to the Preston Guild.

The majority of the history collection has been built through individual donations or bequests, from local people, businesses, clubs and societies. Some of the collections, however, were purchased, including the greetings card collection and the Edwards collection of music sheets and covers.

Ethnographic collection

The ethnographic collection consists of about 200 items from North America, Oceania, Africa and Australasia. The North American artefacts in this collection come from the Weld collection and from John Hyde in 1914. Some material may have been transferred from the Cross Street Museum in 1893.


The stamp collection consists of about 3,600 stamps in albums and about 5,000 loose stamps. The majority of the collection is of foreign material with only about 20% British.  There is one album containing a significant collection of Victorian stamps (penny reds, blacks and violets). Other philatelic material in the collection is of greater historical, and local, significance and includes;

Hand stamps
Mulready envelopes
A large collection of printed and embroidered postcards
Revenue stamps for licences
Boer War letters

The collection was mainly compiled from the donations of the collections of local individuals such as the Booth collection. Booth was a founder member of the Preston Philatelic Society.

Greetings cards

This collection consists of 4,668 items covering such themes as Christmas, New Year, Birthday, Easter, In Memoriam and a significant collection of Valentine cards dating from the 18th century to present day. Much of this collection was purchased by the museum's Art Director Sydney Pavierre in the 1940s through Halewood and Sons, Preston. However, the collection has been supplemented with acquisitions from local people and the Preston greeting cards manufacturer CCA.

Cigarette and Tea Cards

This is a large collection and consists of themed albums (e.g. the seashore) and various unmounted series grouped according to the issuer e.g. Wills, Player, CWS, EH Booth, Lyons Tea Co.. The most significant part of the collection is the Evans collection donated by the writer A.E Evans, the author of Cigarette Cards and How to Collect Them.

Social history objects

The museum has a collection of objects that relate to community, domestic, personal and working life in Preston and the surrounding area.

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