Milton Keynes Museum has moved closer to realising its expansion dreams, with the formal handing over of keys to the new galleries to museum directors.

Members of the public will get a chance to preview the ancient and new Milton Keynes galleries for a series of temporary exhibitions.

In the same year that Milton Keynes celebrated 50 years since its official designation, the museum has been working towards creating a museum that collects, maintains and shares the area’s internationally significant heritage.

Plans for the ambitious £7.2m expansion were originally announced in early 2015, with the aim of telling the whole story of our local heritage, from pre-history right up to the present.

The ancient gallery will bring back the area’s rich archaeology – from pre-history to the 1800s; from the discovery of the UK’s largest Bronze Age roundhouse to the first marriage of King to commoner.

The modern gallery will chronicle the modern journey that has seen a corner of Buckinghamshire countryside transform into a big and bold experiment in building a new community.

With the gallery buildings now complete, fundraising is continuing to enable the museum to fill the spectacular spaces with the elements and items that bring our past to life.

The museum is aiming to open its ancient gallery in spring 2019. In the meantime, among the exhibitions local people can look forward to seeing in the exciting new buildings – the Staffordshire Hoard – the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found, is already confirmed for the summer of 2018.

People can help the museum realise its remaining £1.5 million target by donating on the museum’s JustGiving page www.localgiving.org/charity/milton-keynes-museum/ or in person at the museum.

Museum director Bill Griffiths spoke of his delight at reaching the milestone in the museum’s expansion.

He said, “We’re so proud of what we’ve already achieved with the help of our lead partners at Milton Keynes Council who helped fund and plan the expansion, to our builders, Willmott Dixon, who went over and above at every stage, and to our amazing architect John Leonard at Nicholas Hare.

“Also to the organisations who’ve already helped fund the expansion – Garfield Weston, the Englefield and Radcliffe Trust – many individuals who’ve contributed, plus all our volunteers who continue to make the museum what it is.

“The new galleries will be something of which Milton Keynes can be truly proud – a permanent record and tribute to all who have and will come here.”