by Polly Bennett. Published: 16 March 2012

During the winter shutdown, from December 9th 2011 to March 14th 2012, ALICE hosted approximately 1500 visitors in over 130 separate visits. The visitors ranged from friends, family, and colleagues, to students, press, and VIPs. The purpose of most visits was to see the experiment and cavern, but some also included presentations or a stop at the LHC tunnel. Compared to the other LHC experiments, ALICE has a convenient access point between its cavern and the tunnel, making it a popular destination for beam pipe visits.

Max Brice/CERN

Ms. Margarita Zavala Gomez del Campo, the First Lady of Mexico, at Point 2

Visitor numbers increased compared to last year. Most were (see pie chart) for private purposes (friends, family, and so on) and student trips (including elementary schools, high schools, and universities). However, in terms of individual visitors, the number of students was far greater than the numbers for other visit types (see column graph).

Percentage of each visit type during the 2011/2012 winter shutdown

- Press visits included external journalists; photographers, such as Kim Steele for the New York Times; broadcast press, such as independent documentary director Steve Elkins, TV crews from Mexico, Hungary, and Italy, and Croatian radio; and CERN-based communication groups.

- Notable professional visits included Italian photographer Antonio Saba, charged with producing the new flagship images of ALICE, and the Science Museum London, in preparation for an exhibition about the LHC.

- A number of visits were arranged for high-profile VIPs , such as Dr. Plodprasap Suraswadi, Minister of Science and Technology, Thailand; Ms Margarita Zavala Gomez del Campo, the First Lady of Mexico; Ms Iveta Radi?ová, the Prime Minister of Slovakia; and members of the Comitato per il Progetto Culturale (IT) who included in their party a group of cardinals from The Vatican.

Number of visitors per visit type

David Marks

Documentary filmmaker Steve Elkins filming, with crew member Ben, in the ATLAS Control Room

The logistics of handling visits falls each year to ALICE Deputy Technical Coordinator Arturo Tauro, and the complexity of organisation depends on group size and visit type. “Some big groups came to visit, as big as 50 or 80 people. It was quite challenging to have them down because the safety rules are such that you can’t go down with more than 12 people. If there is a problem in the cavern and an evacuation is triggered you have to be able to bring visitors safely outside the cavern,” Arturo commented. However, he adds, “We understand it’s really important for ALICE to get maximum visibility so it’s not that these visits were bothering us, on the contrary.”

Max Brice/CERN

Xavier Brunel overseeing a visit

CERN/Jean-Claude Gadmer

ALICE Spokesperson Paolo Giubellino with members of the Comitato per il Progetto Culturale at ALICE

Visits are overseen by the technical staff who must organise practicalities such as tokens for the access doors, dosimeters, helmets, and so on. Special mention must go to Xavier Brunel of the ALICE safety team, who played a central role overseeing visit logistics. He spent much time during the shutdown dutifully following visits, training guides, and helping people to pass the biometric system. GLIMOS also sets certain rules for the visits, such as the maximum length of stay in the cavern. Further arrangements are made for the comfort of VIP visits; Systems such as cooling and ventilation are turned off to reduce noise in the cavern space.

For future visits ALICE has just invested in some portable audioguide devices which will allow visitors to hear their guides more easily, thereby increasing the quality of visits.

From March 14th until the next winter shutdown visits will be restricted to VIPs and requests from the press office that fall within the technical stops, roughly every 6 weeks.

Max Brice/CERN

Thai Minister of Science and Technology P. Suraswadi signing the guest book

Amy Dusto

Amy Dusto from the US LHC Communications Group was a regular contributor to ALICE Matters