Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Unexplained Death Exhibit


When does unexplained death become a museum topic? 

Apparently when displays and exhibits about the subject are so artistically produced that they actually re-create in miniature mock scenes that could offer forensic clues about what happened.

Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death is designed to explore the surprising intersection between craft and forensic science, according to Smithsonian spokespeople. Currently on exhibit through January 28 in the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Museum in New York, it also reveals the journey of a female investigator who made her way through the male-dominated field of police investigation in order to establish herself as one of the field’s leading experts.

“Lee (1878-1962) crafted her extraordinary “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”—exquisitely detailed miniature crime scenes—to train homicide investigators to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell.” These dollhouse-sized dioramas of true crimes, created in the first half of the 20th century and still used in forensic training today, helped to revolutionize the emerging field of homicide investigation,” wrote the museum staff.

The first female police captain in the country, she has been recognized as the “mother of forensic science” and helped to set up the first-of-its kind Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard University when the field of forensics was in its infancy.  A gifted artist as well as a criminologist, she used the craft of miniature-making that she had learned as a young girl to create the Nutshells that were the “virtual reality” of their day (starting in the 1940s).

Every element of the dioramas—from the angle of miniscule bullet holes, the placement of latches on widows, the patterns of blood splatters, and the discoloration of painstakingly painted miniature corpses—challenges trainees’ powers of observation and deduction. The Nutshells are so effective that they are still used in training seminars today at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore.

This exhibit represents composites of 19 real and extremely challenging cases featuring homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths.  And she did so, according to the exhibit’s curator, with an eye towards recognizing victims such as women, the poor, and people living on the fringes of society, whose cases might be overlooked or tainted with prejudice on the part of the investigator. She wanted trainees to recognize and overcome any unconscious biases and to treat each case with rigor, regardless of the victim.

For more details, click here

No comments:

Post a Comment