My favourite part of curatorial work is adding new objects to the collections. Aside from the warm fuzzy glow of knowing that something I’ve acquired will be stumbled upon by future generations of curators, visitors and researchers, it’s always an opportunity to find out something new and meet interesting people.
Recently, I visited the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory for a whistle-stop tour. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working on a project to bring our physics collections up to date, and RAL is a great place to start. RAL’s scientists and engineers are involved in projects worldwide, and the on-site facilities are used for a huge range of applications, from studying photosynthesis to analysing timbers from the Mary Rose.
First stop was the giant Vulcan laser, one of the world’s most powerful. The whole thing is too big to photograph but you can take a virtual tour here.
Then on to the Diamond Light Source. This is a synchrotron, accelerating electrons to generate high-intensity light for use in experiments. This animation explains how it works. Diamond’s electron storage ring is more than 500m around – here’s a bit of it.
Next stop was the Particle Physics Department, finding out about RAL’s involvement in the Large Hadron Collider’s CMS experiment. More about the LHC in a few weeks, as I’m off to CERN shortly.
During the tour, my magpie-like curator’s eye noticed a few bits and pieces of interest to the museum, so if I can persuade their owners to part with them, you may be seeing them in our collections soon. Thanks to Katy, Graeme, Cristina, Laura, Jen, Bruce and Chris for a great day!