We’re expanding!

Back to homepage
We’re expanding!

A transformation is underway: two major new galleries telling the full story of the MK area. 

Our vision is to create one of the best museums in the country: we need your help to make it happen.

As Milton Keynes celebrates its 50th birthday, Milton Keynes Museum’s expansion will ensure the city’s past and present is preserved for future generations to enjoy.

From pre-history through to the 1800s the ancient MK gallery gives us the chance to bring back the area’s rich archaeology.

Our 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.

What’s happening?

Ancient Milton Keynes gallery

From the discovery of the UK’s largest Bronze Age roundhouse to the first marriage of King to commoner, Milton Keynes has some fantastic stories to tell. Among this gallery’s highlights:

as visitors enter the new galleries they will be taken back to a time when MK was underwater

♦ as you enter be plunged back to prehistoric times when Milton Keynes was under a tropical sea with ichthyosaurs swimming over your head;

♦ join our time team, practising the craft of archaeology to uncover treasures from the past;

♦ eavesdrop on Roman soldiers returning from battle to their base alongside Watling Street

♦ relive the Wars of the Roses through the eyes of Elizabeth Woodville – the commoner who married a king – and her unfortunate son, the uncrowned Edward V , captured at Stony Stratford and known to history as one of the murdered ‘princes in the tower’;the Museum's hands-on approach to history will be a major part of the new exhibitions

♦ enter – if you dare – the rooms of Thomas Willis and Dr John Radcliffe to assist in the surgery and discoveries that gave birth to modern health care.

Milton Keynes has had more archaeological excavation than any similar area in the UK but until now the finds have been in storage or dispersed to other museums. For the first time this important part of our heritage will be returned and on display in this gallery.

Modern Milton Keynes gallery

Fifty years on from Milton Keynes creation as ‘the new city’, here’s a chance to celebrate our successes, lament our failures, and recognise the part we’ve all played in transforming a corner of Buckinghamshire countryside into the biggest and boldest experiment in building a new community.

♦ Experience what went into imagining then building a successful modern city, and what lessons are still useful half a century later;

♦ Have a go at creating your own marketing campaign, inspired by the ideas of MK’s original promoters whose posters everyone still remembers;

♦ Contribute your memories and objects to our brilliant ‘People’s Story’ exhibition, capturing the vibrancy and stories of a population that has come from all over the globe;

♦ Enjoy a range of exciting interactives from some of our biggest business success stories, including taking your spot on the Marshall stage to discover how music’s biggest names feel.

Our aim is to create a gallery to involve and excite visitors of every age and background –  and be a source of pride for all of us who have made Milton Keynes our home.

What do we need?

Without Milton Keynes Museum the city’s history would have been lost. Its 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’ve completed the build of these new galleries and are now working on the exhibition design, ready to begin fitting out the ancient gallery later this year. 

We’ve been fundraising hard to ensure we deliver galleries that will make the museum among the best in the UK. Keep an eye on our website for details of a new scheme for sponsors and friends to help us close the final £1.5m gap.

Background to the expansion

A host of top names feature in the team that has  been brought together to transform Milton Keynes Museum into a national attraction.

The Museum’s £7.2 m expansion through two major new galleries telling the area’s story from pre-history right through to the present day, was announced in March 2015 – made possible through funding from MK Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund (stage one funding) and Arts Council England.

Designing the new spacious galleries  is the award-winning practice Nicholas Hare Architects,who have recently won contracts to design a base for the London Film School within the Barbican and are now building a new costume centre for the Royal Opera House.

Lead architect John Leonard said: “We were fascinated by the museum’s existing collection and fully support its aim to capture and display the unique history of Milton Keynes.  This expansion is a tremendous opportunity to build high quality galleries and in so doing revitalize the experience for visitors.”

The key role of exhibition design – creating the displays and stories that will captivate future visitors – has been awarded to Mather & Co. Mather’s extensive list of prestigious credits include The Olympic Museum, the National Football Museum, Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, York Minister Revealed and the Springbok Experience in Cape Town.

Their job will be to bring alive the story from pre-history through to the 1800s – including bringing back the rich archaeology of this area – and the story of the Milton Keynes’ creation and development as a new city. This gallery will include special exhibition areas for some of the region’s most successful and innovative businesses, among them Marshall, Red Bull, MK Dons and the OU.

Project lead Chris Mather said: “We can’t wait to start exploring the rich stories and collections held by the museum and challenge people about what they think they know about Milton Keynes. We will be bringing some of the very latest technologies and techniques to this project, so that we can immerse visitors in the full history of this area for the very first time.”


Project objectives

Our objectives are to:

  • Provide all the people of Milton Keynes with a story of their shared heritage that will help them develop roots and a sense of place. Our two new galleries will tell a story of Milton Keynes that will provide all our residents with a shared heritage and help establish strong roots for a population that consists almost entirely of incomers.
  • Create an expanded Museum that captures the area’s evolution from prehistoric times, with enhanced visitor facilities and interpretation. The new galleries will maintain the hands-on history ethos of the existing Museum, but allow us to provide an even more exciting, quality, locally-based cultural facility for the communities of Milton Keynes, and for national and international visitors.
  • Bring home the wealth of significant archaeology found in this area. Milton Keynes has had more archaeological investigation than any other similar area in the UK but the important finds are currently dispersed to other museums or in storage. For the first time we have a chance to bring these artefacts together so that local people and visitors can better understand the lives of people who lived here long ago.
  • Capture and interpret the many local stories that are an important part of the national story. Far from being ‘just a new town’, our central position in the country means the area has been at the heart of many important historical events. Visitors will be taken on a chronological journey to look at life in this area before humans arrived, and then be immersed in scenes from all the main periods in history – from the discovery of the UK’s largest Bronze Age villa to Wolverton’s birth as the world’s first railway town.
  • Explore the story of the ‘new city’, the largest, most ambitious and arguably most successful of the new towns. Milton Keynes attracted some of the ‘brightest and best’ among architects, planners, businesses, and people who had the drive to dare and experiment. But 50 years on from designation time is running out to capture the stories of these people – their ideas, successes and failures that have influenced developments in the UK and worldwide ever since. A key element of the modern MK gallery will be telling ‘the people’s story’ – recognising the contributions of so many, including those of the many waves of immigration that have led to such a rich mix of cultures and diverse population.
  • Respond to the huge increase in visitors by improving flow and accessibility in the existing galleries. In the last two years annual visitor numbers have grown from 20,000 to 45,000. The expansion provides for relocating our busiest galleries such as the schoolroom, resurfacing hard-to-access areas, providing a dedicated schools and community education centre, as well as enhancements to some existing displays.
  •  Create enhanced storage and care for existing collections. The expansion is an opportunity to establish a central facility for dealing professionally with our own and other collections currently outside of Milton Keynes or in offsite storage.
  •  Continue to build on what has been achieved. Development will continue as a responsive, innovative and engaging museum that is loved by its visitors but owned by all the people of Milton Keynes.