Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

Frances Glessner Lee, Attic (detail), about 1946-48. Collection of the Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, courtesy of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Baltimore, MD. Photograph by Susan Marks, Courtesy of Murder in a Nutshell documentary

October 20, 2017 – January 28, 2018
Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
1661 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC
1st Floor

Murder is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death explores the unexpected 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, still used in forensic training today, helped to revolutionize the emerging field of forensic science. At the same time, they subverted traditional uses for gendered and domestic crafts such as miniature-making and needlework, offering Glessner Lee a rare and honored position in the male-dominated world of police investigation.