CRISTALLI@Parma: I wish I lived here
Among the several initiatives carried out in Italy to celebrate IYCr, one of the most successful was the exhibition CRISTALLI!, promoted by the Italian Crystallographic Association. The exhibition started in Padua and was then reinvented in many other Italian cities with different flavours and views, like a wave travelling through the country. CRISTALLI!@Parma, organized by the University in collaboration with IMEM-CNR, had an amazing impact on the public, attracting 12,500 visitors in 7 weeks (http://cristalli.unipr.it/). The crowds attending the guided tours with experiments at the weekends were impressive, with everyone showing a real enthusiasm for crystals and ready to learn all the (crystalline) faces of cheese, ham, sugar, ice cream and medicines. The exhibition in fact was centred on showing the links between crystallography and the local excellence in food processing, pharmaceuticals and of course academic research.
All kinds of crystals were on display, from amazing sugar crystals weighing more than 0.5 kg to meteorites, minerals, shells and a silicon single crystal of 250 kg grown by the Czochralski method, immediately nicknamed 'the rocket'. A giant model of NaCl made from glittering balls and sticks was the kids' favourite. A special section of original artworks related to crystallography was organized in collaboration with the Archive of Modern Art of the U. of Parma. The exhibition booklet (www.mupeditore.it/saggistica/divulgazione_scientifica/cristalli.aspx) collected together simple explanations on crystallography related to daily life and recipes for growing one's own crystals, and was highly appreciated by visitors of all ages. The visitors' book was full of enthusiastic comments; the best was probably 'I wish I lived here' from Ariella.
Thanks to this precious IYCr legacy, the crystallographers in Parma, working in the Dept. of Chemistry and the Dept. of Physics and Earth Science, and at IMEM-CNR, are determined to build a network of contacts with schools to introduce subjects related to crystallography into the science lectures, and to continue to hold public lectures and open labs to bring the general public closer to the beauty of crystals. The training of high school teachers in the basics of crystallography is another extremely important activity promoted by the Italian Crystallographic Association through the realization of a completely original introductory book, in Italian, that is being distributed free all over Italy to high school teachers involved in projects between schools and universities. The book can be downloaded from the website of IYCr in Italy (www.iycr2014.it/contenuti/libro/49).
These are only two successful examples of how IYCr has really reached important targets in Italy, in raising public awareness of the importance of crystallography, reaching the youngest by exciting their imagination, and catching the interest of high school teachers, who are important in orienting young talents to scientific careers. We wish IYCr will be forever.Alessia Bacchi