STASHED away in a secret storage facility, Bolton Museum’s astonishing treasures lie just waiting to be discovered.

From hallowed antiquity to heritage still within living memory, the collection charts Bolton’s history from the fifth millennium BC, and the town’s projection on the world.

The Bolton News went on a special behind-the-scenes tour to explore 60,000 plus spectacular artefacts and how the museum cares for them.

Established in the late 19th century, Bolton Museum was founded in the spirit of philanthropy and education.

The museum experienced several significant periods of donations when it first opened and again in the 1900s.

The number of donations declined during the two world wars, but picked up again from the 1970s and the collection swelled to its current size.

The first stop on our tour was a spine-tingling collection of hundreds of preserved animal and plant specimens — some of which date back to the late 1800s.

The collection boasts native and more exotic species in all shapes and sizes, from a half dissected giant frog and bed bugs, to a climbing perch from Bengal and an axolotl from Mexico.

Originally used to help teach biology, many of the creatures have been submerged in jars full of alcohol and formaldehyde, while others are stored in a type of jelly which makes them transparent.

Some of the earliest specimens are even sealed with animal skins which then shrink to keep the jars airtight. Although Bolton Museum is currently closed to make way for the Eternal Egypt Project, once returned these objects will form part of the natural history gallery.

Moving from room to room we visited the museum's world collection with its imposing Samurai armour, as well as the famous Egyptology collection, home to wonders too many to list from the Roman and Coptic periods, and even some dating back to the Predynastic era around 5,000 BC.

There is also a geology store crammed full of beautiful fossils, rocks and minerals from across the UK and the globe, and the textile store for the museum’s costume gallery, including a tapestry dating from the 1680s.

Closer to home there is an architectural archive and numerous objects essential to Bolton’s industrial heritage.

These include a Spinning Jenny, which kickstarted the industrial revolution and made Bolton a textile boomtown, and a loom using early punch-card computer technology — a predecessor to many of the smart phones, tablets and laptops in our homes.

Conservator Pierette Squires, our passionate guide around the site, said: “These are things which are of international importance. I think some people forget just how important Bolton was in terms of that.

“We have to be quite careful when handling them, because to prevent corrosion on some of the spikes they used arsenic.”

The storage facility is also a wonder in itself, with rules and systems to protect the collections, such as special brushes on the doors to keep out pests.

The site is strictly divided into a 'human- friendly' zone and an 'artefact-friendly' zone, specially insulated to keep it cool, and where food and other items are strictly prohibited.

There is also a research room where academics and scientists can examine the objects all listed in an instantly accessible catalogue.

The site is the greenest council building in Bolton, employing hi-tech environmentally-friendly gadgets and materials to maintain the integrity of the items and save the most amount of money possible.

This attitude harks back to the charitable origins of the museum, and Ms Squires believes that the spirit of philanthropy and desire to enlighten is still very much a part of the museum.

She said: “I think those that work in the museum, and work here long term, feel a sense of care and public duty.

“I don’t think that feeling has really changed. I think people who work in museums do it because they love that sort of thing.”

Bolton Museum reopens later this year.