by Virginia Greco. Published: 06 February 2018

The ALICE visit point has now a brand new permanent exhibition, which has been recently inaugurated. The installation is now open for guided tours and will be one of the itineraries for the official public visits to CERN.

Inauguration of the ALICE exhibition. From left to right: Tapan Nayak, Chris Fabjan, Adriana Telesca, Boris Hippolyte, Despina Hatzifotiadou, Rolf Landua, Fabienne Marcastel, Federico Antinori, Eckhard Elsen, Werner Riegler, Johanna Stachel, Peter Braun-Munzinger, Virginia Greco. [Credit: CERN]

 

On January 17, the ALICE collaboration inaugurated a new permanent exhibition at its visit point at the experimental site (LHC point 2). Designed mainly for the general public and for high school and university students, the new installation will be open for guided tours, allowing visits to ALICE even during the run season, when the experiment cavern is not accessible. It will also be included in the official itineraries for the tours organized by the visit service of CERN.

Developed by the Spanish company Indissoluble – the same that designed and built the current Microcosm – the exhibition includes three main components: a mock-up, a set of display cases and information screens, and a periscope.

An entire wall of the room is occupied by a real-dimension mock-up of a partial transversal section of the detector, on which real pieces of detectors and read-out electronics are mounted. On the opposite side, more components are displayed in cases and three touch screens allow tour guides and visitors to surf through pages of technical explanations and close-up pictures of the various sub-detectors and systems. 

A periscope connected in real-time with the experimental cavern is also installed. Thanks to two movable cameras, it is possible to watch the cavern and the detector, both from the front and from the rear side, where the muon spectrometer is located.

The highlight of the exhibition, though, is the immersive video projected all along the mock-up and the adjacent wall. When the visitors enter the room, they find themselves in almost complete darkness. As soon as the projection starts, they are surrounded by a colourful and captivating animation – which also reveals the presence of the mock-up –, by evocative music and a warm voice explaining what they are seeing. The movie presents briefly and in easy terms the objectives of the experiment and the way the detector works; it also provides information about the history of ALICE.

The projection on two full walls, the darkness, the captivating music and the loud sound altogether create an emotional experience aimed at surprising the public and attracting their attention.

“It is my pleasure to present the new ALICE exhibition and pass it into the hands of the Collaboration and of the Visit Service,” declared Spokesperson Federico Antinori at the inauguration, “and I really want to acknowledge and thank all the people who followed the project and made this possible”. Chair of the Technical Board Werner Riegler also intervened, describing briefly the content of the exhibition and its making process.

The inauguration took place in the presence of members of the ALICE Collaboration, of the CERN management and of the Education, Communication and Outreach group, as well as of the Protocol Office.

As of now the exhibition is officially opened to CERN people and the general public for guided visits. Training sessions for guides are being organized and whoever wants to visit it can contact alice-visits@cern.ch.

  

Federico Antinori (top) and Werner Riegler (bottom) speaking at the inauguration of the new permanent ALICE exhibition. [Credit: CERN]

 

The ALICE exhibition along the years

The first ALICE exhibition was put together at the experimental site in 2004, on the occasion of the open days for celebrating the 50th anniversary of CERN. It was quite simple, including a number of posters – about the physics of ALICE, the Big Bang and the Standard Model, the various components of the detector and data taking – and some real pieces of sub-detectors, either fixed on the walls or inside display cases.

It served its purpose for many years, but it lacked  interactivity and modern media. In addition, the hall of the hangar was – and is – very noisy because of the ventilation system of the experimental cavern, thus it was very hard for guides to be heard by their visitors when giving explanations.

Because of these problems, discussions started about the idea of setting up a new exhibition. An important role in this was played since the beginning by Yves Schutz, Despina Hatzifotiadou and Arturo Tauro, as well as by Rolf Landua of the CERN IR-ECO group, who followed the project offering advice and support. After various brainstorming meetings and some back-and-forth on the direction to take, it was decided to build a close space, to shield the noise, and that the Spanish company that had designed the CERN Microcosm would realize the ALICE exhibition as well.

“We immediately thought of a short film for the general public to introduce the experiment,” explains Hatzifotiadou, “while Werner Riegler had the idea of having a mockup and projecting images on it, after seeing the synchrocyclotron exhibition, which had been just installed at CERN”.

An animation about heavy-ion collisions and quark-gluon plasma formation, to include in the movie, was developed by the CERN Media Lab, under the supervision of Rolf Landua, who also helped ALICE to finance the project.

The external infrastructure on the site, the cabling and ventilation were realized by the CERN services (SMB, EN-EL and EN-CV), while the ALICE technicians dealt with dismantling the existing structure and making a new floor. Arturo Tauro, deputy technical coordinator, has been responsible for all the technical aspects of building the new exhibition. He participated also in the definition of the requirements for it, as well as in the development of the plot for the video. “The most difficult part for me has been the realisation of the movie,” comments Tauro, “as we had to illustrate in a simple way the complex concepts of the experimental physics world. It took us months to get it done but eventually it was well worth doing it!”

The video projection of the new exhibition [Credits: Indissoluble]