Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Crime in a nutshell

One more Tuesday in Women's History Month … time enough to talk about Frances Glessner Lee (1878–1962), the society matron and International Harvester heiress whose life was dedicated to miniatures and forensics.

This little info-blog is for those who may not have heard of Lee's amazing dioramas, compiled in "The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death." Lee meticulously crafted miniature scenes in the normal dollhouse scale of 1 inch = 1 foot to teach law enforcement students the intricacies of investigating a crime scene.

The dioramas have extraordinary detail and verisimilitude. The windows open and close and the pencils write; tiny clothespins, whittled by Lee, hold stockings that she knitted using straight pins.

Lee endowed a Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard, and eventually gave seminars to homicide detectives. As far as I can tell from the sources, it was she who came up with the idea of "circling" a crime scene in a methodical pattern to obtain the best vision of what the evidence revealed.

For a look at her macabre scenes: http://www.bellwethergallery.com/artistsindex_01.cfm?fid=28

Long before CSI, Lee was a tireless advocate of forensics science and dedicated miniaturist.

No wonder I wish I could have lunch with her.


Monica Ferris said...

Wow, what an amazing woman! It seems that she would have been a remarkable investigator in today's world but had to accommodate her time and place to do the work she was born to do. Seeming to work with "toys," she did criminal investigations. Bless her, and her Victorian female predecessors, and even Elizabeth I, who opened many doors for their grateful descendents.

Camille Minichino said...

Yes, and like so many women of the time, she still had to play the role of hostess. I remember hearing Carolyn Heilbron talking about how her family served as a cover for her so she'd be accepted as the first female prof. of English at Columbia.

Hmmm ... do we still have to do that in some roles??

Melanie & Johnny & Marlia said...

I wonder if this inspired the CSI "Miniature" killer episodes of that show.

Camille Minichino said...

I wondered about that, too. Quite possible, since the book came out only in late 2004, so the timing would be right.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an interesting bit of info, not to mention the picture gallery. Wow, again. Amazing write-up...xoxox

Linda O. Johnston said...

What a versatile and fascinating woman! I love hearing stories like this.

Nicole P said...

Very interesting.
Thanks for sharing.