In a Nutshell

In what has to be the best exhibition title I've heard in a long time, Frances Glessner and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death opens tonight at, appropriately, the Glessner House Museum at 1800 South Prairie Avenue. From Glessner House's web page:
The only daughter of John and Frances Glessner...Frances Glessner Lee founded the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard in 1936 and was later appointed honorary captain in the New Hampshire state police....she noticed how often officers mishandled evidence and mistook accidents for murders and vise versa. In the 1940s and 1950s, she built stunningly detailed dollhouse crime scenes based on real cases to train detectives to assess visual evidence. She called these teaching tools the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, inspired by the police saying: "Convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell."...Still used in forensic training today, the eighteen dioramas [in the exhibition] are engaging and shocking visual masterpieces. Built on a scale of 1:12, they each display an astounding level of precision: pencils write, window shades move, and every detail -- a newspaper headline, a bloodstain on the rug, an outdated wall calendar, a cartridge casing-- becomes a potential clue to the crime."
Amazing. Take that, CSI! A 1992 essay from the American Medical News by Bruce Goldfarb, "Small-Scale Tragedies," has more information and images on these models. (via Chicagoist)


  1. Howdy!

    There was a really nice article about Ms. Lee in the New York Times back in October.

    Try this or better still, this one.


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