Summer Science Exhibition is upon us and as exhibitors set up on Monday morning, things were already looking very exciting. Half of the Society’s Library has become a version of the bat-cave, thanks to the Zoological Society and Cambridge University, while the main Reading Room contains the kind of high-tech scanning equipment that would be the envy of any security-conscious rare books librarian, courtesy of Southampton University.

Our own Arabick Roots display was installed last month but we have a second contribution to the Society’s big celebration of science. This year it’s very different – the largely sculptural installation Crystal world, featuring the work of Hubert Duprat, Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey, and Michelle Charles, alongside some scintillating scientific imagery from Professor Naomi Chayen and her colleagues at Imperial College, London. It’s the first time we’ve attempted to mix the scientific with the artistic in a library exhibition and I’ll be interested in public reactions. Already, quite a few chemistry teachers have been taken with the show’s theme of crystal-inspired art, and are thinking of ways to collaborate with their art departments to stoke an interest in science among pupils who wouldn’t think of themselves as budding chemists.

Crystal bust by Ackroyd and Harvey, copper sulphate 1994

In a bigger way, that’s what the exhibition is about for us too. Although we wanted the most beautiful art exhibition we could mount – and the guest curator Professor Gill Perry of the Open University surpassed our expectations in that regard – we wanted a means of engaging with non-scientists to think about the natural world. The artists’ works do this effortlessly and with great beauty: each is intriguing and experimental. Artists and scientists do share a sense of curiosity about the universe and that’s something we can explore both in our historic collections and in our forward-looking activities.

I’m not going to pick a favourite work because I think you should come along and choose your own. You can see Michelle Charles’s paintings of salt crystals not too far away from a large single piece of rock salt. Ackroyd and Harvey’s Crystal fish is the signature piece of the show, while Naomi Chayen’s light microscope photographs have made it into the New Scientist. Hubert Duprat’s work was celebrated recently in an associated exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum, Hubert Duprat Caddis Crystal and Company and there’s a terrific YouTube film to serve as an introduction to his ideas.

Come and view some art at Carlton House Terrace. Crystal world runs 4 July-5 October 2011 but if you make it this week you can soak in the atmosphere of the Summer Science Exhibition too.

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