Snapshots of CERN

Art was the language of communication between science and the thousands of visitors attending CERN’s two photographic exhibitions in Italy and Spain in October. The artistic images of CERN’s Nobel Prize winners, Large Hadron Collider (LHC) machinery and detectors raised people's curiosity and helped to promote the understanding of particle physics.


The exhibition “Accelerating Nobels” at Genoa’s 7th Science Festival.

The exhibition “Accelerating Nobels” attracted over 600’000 visitors during Genoa’s 7th annual Science Festival. It showed science photographer Volker Steger’s 21 portraits of physics Nobels holding their own impromptu drawings of their best discovery.

“The theme of the festival was ‘The Future’. The exhibition illustrated the long history of particle physics discoveries at CERN which all lead to what the LHC is going to find, including probably more Nobels,” explained Paola Catapano, CERN Communications Group. “People are impressed by Nobel Laureates but often don’t understand what they do. These original potraits of Nobels with their drawings encouraged them to read more about the work carried out in particle physics at CERN.”

Amid high media interest, the La Repubblica newspaper featured “Nobel Lampi di Genio” on the front page of its festival report and a Rai television documentary showed “Accelerating Nobels” as one of the main attractions of the festival. Its central location in the Palazzo Ducale next to the festival’s ticket office also ensured that most visitors saw the exhibition, which was sponsored by ASG Superconductors, one of the three companies to build the LHC dipoles located in Genoa. It is now proposed that the portraits be used to make a “Nobel road” at CERN between the Globe and the site of the UA1, the experiment that found the W and Z bosons and for which Carlo Rubbia and Simon Van der Meer won a Nobel Prize.

A second exhibition showing CERN through the lens of science photographer Peter Ginter attracted 6’500 visitors per day outside Valencia's City of Arts and Science (Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias). The 54 artistic photographs, which were previously displayed along Geneva’s Quai Wilson in 2008, capture the great human and scientific adventure of the construction of the LHC and its experiments.

CERN through the lens of Peter Ginter outside Valencia's City of Arts and Science

The main objective is to bring the LHC to the general public to increase their interest in science and, in particular, physics,” says Maria Jose Gracia Vidal, of Centro Nacional de Física de Partículas, Astropartículas y Nuclear (CPAN), the organising institute. “CPAN wants to inform the public about the participation of the Spanish scientists in this project so that they can understand and appreciate the investment in science. We expect more interest in physics and to attract more people to study this subject at university.”

Currently, the exhibition and its accompanying guided visits and conferences are on a ten-city tour around Spain until February 2010.




by Rebecca Leam