Frances Glessner Lee's Miniature World

Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death explores the suprising intersection between craft and forensic science. Frances Glessner 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 diorama composites of true crime scenes, created in the first half of the 20th century and still used in forensic training today, helped to revolutionize the emerging field of forensic science. The equivalent to “virtual reality” in their time, her masterfully crafted dioramas feature handmade elements to render scenes with exacting accuracy and meticulous detail. Every element of the dioramas—from real tobacco in miniature, hand-burned cigarette butts, tiny stockings knit with straight pins, and working locks on windows and doors, to the angle of miniscule bullet holes, the patterns of blood splatters, and the discoloration of painstakingly painted miniature corpses—challenges trainees’ powers of observation and deduction.


1. CBC

2. the Smithsonian

3. Harvard Magazine

4. Crimefeed a

5. Crimefeed b

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