LIVERPOOL'S national conservation centre reopened today after a £1m refit.

And among the top attractions at the centre in Whitechapel is an advice service on how to care for family treasures.

Paintings, books, jewellery and small ornaments are xpected to be among the most popular items for the handy hints programme, whichis staffed by experts.

The scheme is by appointment.

But managers were quick to insist: "This is not an alternative to The Antiques Road-show. It is not a valuation or repair service, but a way of telling people how best they can look after precious family possessions."

Among the early suggestions are ways of preserving old books and tips on how to maintain pictures, including watercolours, which should neverbe hung in direct sunlight.

The reopening was marked by a new interactive permanent exhibition showing how historical artefacts, including Egyptian mummies, are maintained and screened.

Visitors will also be able to see conservation staff at work, examining hundreds of items with the benefit of x-rays and micro-scopes.

David Fleming, director of National Museums Liverpool said: "This is now one of the world's leading scientific institutes, and it's right here, in the heart of Liverpool."

The conservation centre was first opened in 1996.

Two years later it was named as European Museum of the Year.