A foundation stone has been laid at the base of two major new galleries that are the heart of Milton Keynes Museum’s ambitious expansion.
Aiming to give ‘the new city’ its roots by telling its story from pre-history through the present day, the huge building will be a legacy that long outlasts the city’s 50th birthday celebrations – of which it is a key part.
But £1.5 million still has to be raised to ensure the project partners achieve their aim of gifting MK with ‘one of the best museums in the country’.
Fittingly, for a museum that was set up and is still run by local volunteers, the stonelaying was performed by Ron Unwin – the last surviving member, still working as a volunteer, of the small group who came together in 1972 to preserve the area’s heritage from bulldozers building Britain’s newest city.
Costing £7.2m, MK Museum’s expansion involves two major new galleries telling the whole story of this area. From pre-history through to the 1800s the ancient MK gallery will enable MK to bring back the rich archaeology of this area and tell its story through Bronze, Roman, Medieval, Tudor and Civil War times.
The modern MK gallery will be an exciting exploration of the innovative ideas, inspiring people and world-leading businesses who’ve made MK what it is.
As the foundation stone was laid the museum launched a public fundraising with an invitation to local people and business to help us make history’.
Explained Museum Director Bill Griffiths: “The Museum’s success as one of the region’s most-loved tourist attractions is down to the thousands of local people who’ve been involved in building and maintaining the museum, collecting important objects, and sharing stories with visitors.
“Working in partnership with Milton Keynes Council, we have enough money to build these new galleries and begin to fit them out. But - following the Heritage Lottery Fund’s disappointing decision not to support the project - we’re £1.5 million short of what we believe it will take to make us among the best in the UK. I am sure the people of Milton Keynes would accept nothing less.
“So once again we’re turning to local people, clubs, interest groups and businesses, to help us give our home town back its roots and those roots belong to us all.”
The galleries rising from the Museum grounds have been designed by top architects Nicholas Hare, whose credits include the Royal Opera House extension. Building works are being carried out by award-winning Construction firm, Willmott Dixon.
Within the two galleries, the new exhibitions are being developed with Mather & Co, creators of the Royal Mint Experience, National Footballing, Wimbledon and Olympic Museums.
From the moment visitors arrive in an immersive theatre, recreating a time when Milton Keynes was under a tropical sea, the aim is to preserve the hands-on ethos which has seen MK Museum named one of the most family friendly in the UK, and named MK’s best tourist attraction in the inaugural OneMK awards.
Cllr Liz Gifford, Cabinet Member for Culture and Community Services said:
“This is an important milestone in the development of the Museum as well as another step towards the full facility that was in the original ‘masterplan’ for the new city.
“During MK’s 50th year we’ve been looking back as well as forwards. MK50 is helping us explain to the world what makes MK special and different, and it’s an opportune time to get involved in an initiative that will help generations to come understand the significance of our home.”
To find out more about the project see www.mkmuseum.org.uk. To donate to the project visit https://localgiving.org/charity/milton-keynes-museum