It's all change at the visit points

58,000 people visited CERN in 2010. In spite of this success, the Organization has plans to review the installations at the various visit points with a view to making the links between them clearer and, above all, making tours of the Laboratory more spectacular.


CERN Control Centre.

The permanent exhibition in the Globe of Science and Innovation, the "Universe of Particles", attracts large numbers of visitors. A high-tech venue offering an overview of CERN's research goals, tools and impact throughout the world, the Globe acts as a showcase for the Laboratory. "The Globe is an ideal place to start a tour of CERN. After experiencing a virtual experiment at the heart of the Universe, visitors are keen to find out what's behind it all, to know more about the research we do here at CERN.When it was still possible to see the LHC detectors, visitors were bowled over by their huge size. To continue to surprise them to the same extent, we are planning to reorganise the visit itineraries," explains Rolf Landua, head of the Education Group, which is also responsible for public outreach.

The main visit points are the CERN Control Centre (CCC), the Computer Centre (CC) and SM18. "These venues offer lots of interesting things to see but it's not very clear to visitors at present how they all fit together," says Rolf. "It's therefore vital that we establish a connection between them in order to make visits more coherent." The plan is to exhibit objects, accompanied by animations, graphics, videos and other audiovisual supports which the guides can use to supplement their explanations and thus make a bigger impact. "These developments will help to make visits more fun, more intuitive, clearer and more exciting," underlines Rolf.

The following plans have been drawn up for the various visit itineraries:

Picture of the Computer Center taken during the Photowalk 2010.

CERN Control Centre and Computer Centre:
Today, at both the CCC and the CC, visitors gather in a simple entrance area that's fairly bare except for posters and screens on the walls. The most interesting parts, the LHC Control Room and the Grid installations, are behind a glass screen. Unfortunately, the majority of visitors are not authorised to enter these rooms and have to remain in the entrance area throughout the visit. The crucial role of these two points at the heart of CERN's high-tech installations is by no means clear to visitors. Audiovisual tools explaining what goes on in the CCC and the CC could be used to underline this aspect. One idea is a giant screen that would show animations then become transparent to reveal the Control Room or the Grid installations.

The SM18 large multi-purpose hall houses important installations and interesting objects such as cross-sections of the LHC magnets, superconducting cables and, in particular, a life-size mock-up of a section of the LHC tunnel. SM18 thus offers visitors a range of interesting opportunities. However, in the case of large groups, visitors tend to spread out across the hall and it becomes difficult for them to hear what the guide is saying. In addition, although the LHC mock-up is one of the most popular attractions of the visit, it doesn't really give you the feeling of what it's like to be inside the LHC tunnel 100 m below ground. It is therefore planned to make a new model of the inside of the tunnel to make it more life-like. Another idea is to group all the main elements of the visit together and to supplement them with high-tech audiovisual supports explaining how they work.

View of the cryogenic band line at SM18 for test the LHC magnet.

The three visit points mentioned above are only the start of the project to improve the service offered to visitors. With over 200 visitors a day expected in the coming years, the itinerary will be supplemented with other stops to allow tours to be varied rather than always being concentrated in the same place. Other visit points should follow. The whole project should be finalised some time in 2012.


by Laëtitia Pedroso