Top team to build ‘best museum in the country’

architects' drawing of the new galleries at Milton Keynes MuseumA host of top names feature in the team that has just been brought together to transform Milton Keynes Museum into a national attraction.

The Museum’s £7.3 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 – made possible through funding from MK Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.

Since then the search has been on to put together the team of planners, architects, exhibition designers and builders to deliver the ambitious vision for a Museum that could welcome more than 100,000 visitors a year.

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 architects are part of the complete Design and Build contract won by Wates Construction, the first privately owned company to be awarded Business in the Community’s ‘Mark’ in recognition of the firm’s investment in local communities.

Phil Shortman, Business Unit Director, Wates Construction, Northern Home Counties and East, commented: “We are extremely proud to have been appointed as the main contractor to deliver this exceptional development. The flagship transformation of Milton Keynes Museum is undoubtedly a scheme deserving of an expert team to take it forward and Wates’ extensive experience in the museums sector places us as a trusted partner for the project.”

picture of exhibits in the National Football Museum

Mather &Co’s credits include the National Football Museum, Lawn Tennis Association Museum and many more

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 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.”

Ahead of the project’s stage 2 submission to the Heritage Lottery Fund to unlock cash for the build, independent heritage consultant Christine Garwood has been appointed to produce an activity plan for the new Milton Keynes Museum. This will scope out a programme of events and activities for museum visitors and volunteers for the next three years, in partnership with the local community.

Focus Consultants have been selected as the project’s business planners. The Nottingham-based firm specialise in strategy, funding and development within the arts and heritage sectors.

final MKMlogoAnd overseeing all this work as project leads are Adrian Hewitt as Project Manager and Bill Griffiths, the current Museum Director.

Adrian, a director of Hewitt Freeborn, has been working with the project’s major funders, Milton Keynes Council, since 2006 and has in excess of 20 years’ experience delivering public sector projects.

Bill Griffiths said: “We’re thrilled to be announcing the team today. We have one task as a team and that is to build the best museum in the country. We don’t want to be like any other museum, but to produce something that, like the present museum, has heart and soul.

“With such a strong team on board we believe we can make this happen: create a museum that really involves its visitors, that is memorable and exciting, that the people of Milton Keynes will feel pride in, and that will draw visitors from all over the UK.”

Sarah Betteley, Milton Keynes Council Member for Community Engagement and Empowerment  said: “This is indeed a very experienced team who will I am sure successfully move this project forward to the realisation of an expanded and enhanced Milton Keynes Museum for residents, schools and visitors to enjoy”

Among tasks already underway is a major consultation on what people want to see in their new museum. It is vital that local people have a say and activity consultant, Christine Garwood is keen to hear views. Email her at info@mkmusem.org.uk .You can also contribute via the Milton Keynes Museum page on Facebook, or start a conversation with @mkmuseum on Twitter.


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