Nutshell studies of unexplained death

Monday, May 23, 2011
Red Bedroom - the crime scene of a murdered prostitute (click to enlarge)
From Erin Hooper Bush's website Death in Diorama: "In the 1940s, Frances Glessner Lee, a Chicago heiress to the International Harvester fortune, built the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, composite crime scene models recreated on a one-inch-to-one-foot scale. These macabre dioramas were purpose-built to be used as police training tools to help crime scene investigators learn the art and science of detailed forensics-based detection."

The site has information about "Mother" Lee, the woman who conceived of the idea of building crime scene dioramas to teach proper crime scene investigation. She, and her carpenter Ralph Mosher, are believed to have constructed 20 of the dioramas. although only 18 survived. They are currently housed by the Maryland Medical Examiners Office and are still used for training tools. They are not available for public viewing.

Each diorama was meticulously designed and based on composites of real crimes. The decor emulated the flop houses and seedy rooms these crimes occurred in, and featured working lights, doors and other details. Mother Lee fashioned the dolls that served as corpses, realistically painting them to show the degree of mortification they were found in. Students would examine them with flashlights and magnifying glasses to learn how to comprehensively search for clues.  

The site has pictures of four of her dioramas: the Kitchen, Dark Bathroom, Red Bedroom (shown above) and the Parsonage, each  with hotspots to details in them showing clues.  

Drop by the site, see if you can spot the clues, and read up on an amazing woman who did a lot to revolutionize and promote crime scene investigation.