Frances Glessner Lee, a wealthy grandmother, founded the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard in 1936 and was later appointed captain in the New Hampshire police. In the 1940s she built dollhouse crime scenes based on real cases in order to train detectives to assess visual evidence. She called these teaching tools the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, after a well-known police saying: 'Convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find truth in a nutshell.' Still used in forensic training today, the eighteen Nutshell dioramas, on a scale of 1:12, display an astounding level of realism and precision: pencils write, window shades move, and every detail - a newspaper headline, a bloodstain on the rug, an outdated wall calendar, a cartridge casing - becomes a potential clue to the crime.
Corinne Botz's lush color photographs lure viewers into every crevice of Lee's models, breathing life into the deadly miniatures, exposing the dark side of the domestic realm, and unveiling tales of prostitution, alcoholism and adultry. The annotated line drawings, specially prepared for this volume, highlight the noteworthy forensic evidence in each case and draw attention to the craft that went into the creation of the models.
Botz's introductory essay, which draws on archival research and interviews with Lee's family and police colleagues, presents a captivating portrait.