|Frances Glessner Lee working on one of her Nutshell Studies|
This blog is called Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, and no one personifies that category more than Frances Glessner Lee, a Chicago heiress born in 1878. Frances wasn’t your typical cloistered society matron, though. She had a rather unique hobby for a woman of her time. Rather than devoting herself to the typical domestic life of well-to-do wives of her day, Frances preferred to dabble in murder investigations. After being introduced to forensic science by future medical examiner and Harvard professor of pathology George Magrath, she set about creating a tool to help train homicide investigators.
Glessner Lee enjoyed hosting dinner parties, not for the elite of society, but for law enforcement investigators, encouraging them to discuss the details, no matter how gory, of their cases. She learned that crime scenes, when observed correctly, held many clues to the solving of crimes. However, crime scenes have a limited lifespan, and evidence can be lost or corrupted.
So Glessner Lee created “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” to help investigators learn how to apply deductive reasoning to assess the elements of a crime scene. She did this by recreating objective recreations of actual crime scenes in miniature, crafting detailed dioramas based on police reports and court records, complete down to the smallest detail, including the dead body. Her miniature models taught investigators how to analyze a crime scene objectively.
Glessner Lee’s Nutshell Studies now reside in the Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office. They are not only on view to the public but are still used to teach forensic investigation.
Camille Minichino has been a frequent guest of ours over the years. Along with being a cozy mystery author (writing under her own name, as well as her Ada Madison, Jean Flowers, and Margaret Grace pen names), Camille is also a miniaturist. This is one of her creations, To give you an idea of the scale, the paperback books are 1/2” x 3/4”.
Does this miniature depict a crime scene? Note the titles and name of the author of the books. Is that mystery author Lois Winston pictured in the photo frame? But wait! There’s a gun on the rug. And is that an uneaten dish of caviar? There’s a tale to be told here…is it a tale of murder?