More than $10 million has been donated to help expand Fredericton’s Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

Two of New Brunswick’s wealthiest families – the Irvings and the McCains – donated most of the money, while the federal government is providing $1.5 million.

“This is part of history. All of the works that you see here are very important to, not only the people of Canada, certainly the people of the province of New Brunswick,” said Conservative MP Keith Ashfield.

The gallery recently celebrated 50 years and is in need of additional space; its world-renowned collection has grown and visitor numbers are up.

Director Terry Graff said expanding the gallery will provide visitors with a 21st century experience.

“We want people to stay here longer, so a café is going to do that. People can take a break then look at more art,” said Graff. “We have niche collections, prints and drawings, we have folk art, we have areas where we can focus in the new building.”

The outline of the new wing has already been staked out on gallery property. Construction will begin this fall, with the new wing scheduled to open in 2017.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Andy Campbell