COUNTY Museum staff at Hartlebury are knee deep in bubble wrap and tissue paper as they carry out the delicate operation of packing items away to make way for the builders.

Many hundreds of historic artefacts are being put into storage as several galleries are cleared, ready for the first phase of a five-year rolling programme of improvements.

They range from large wheeled vehicles to a stuffed goose, which was in the kitchen gallery, and a tobacco jar that belonged to Stanley Baldwin.

The £500,000-plus first phase includes a new glass entrance pavilion, a glass lift to improve disabled access to the three-storey building and a new, bigger restaurant.

Collections officer, David Kendrick, said staff were working hard to pack the objects and move them to the museum's storage unit on the Hartlebury Trading Estate.

"Some of the objects are very fragile and we have craftsmen making special cases," he said, "You wouldn't believe the amount of bubble wrap and tissue here."

The museum will remain closed to the public until the building work is finished in the late summer but it is hoped that open days and school trips will be arranged so people can see the artefacts in storage.

They will soon be moved into a larger, 15,000sq ft unit on the trading estate, which will be shared with the Worcester City Museum.

The public will be able to see the various climate-controlled storage areas necessary to preserve the different types of artefacts, such as costumes, archaeological material and furniture. The building work is expected to start in a few weeks.