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Image of the Week: The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

27 Feb, 2015
Dark Bathroom (Tub), Corinne May Botz, 2004. Image courtesy of the artist

Dark Bathroom (Tub), Corinne May Botz, 2004. Image courtesy of Corinne Botz and Benrubi Gallery.

This unsettling image of a doll meeting her untimely end, carries a deadly serious purpose. It is a close up portrait of one the twenty miniature crime scenes created by American heiress and criminologist Frances Glessner Lee in the 1940s and 50s. Termed ‘The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death’, each of these macabre dollhouse scenes was based on a composite of actual crimes. Their purpose was to train police investigators in a more methodical approach when observing and collecting evidence, while encouraging better interaction between law enforcement and the medical community. The Nutshells are still used for police training in Baltimore today.

Our featured image this week was created by artist and author Corinne May Botz, who spent several years photographing the Nutshells and researching the work and life of Glessner Lee. She was particularly fascinated by the ways in which these meticulously crafted crime scenes, created by a self-taught, wealthy socialite, subvert the notion of the home as a safe haven, especially for their (mostly female) victims. Her photographs magnify Glessner Lee’s miniature worlds of domestic violence to an unnervingly human scale.

A selection of Corinne May Botz’s compelling photographs are on display, alongside one of Glessner Lee’s original Nutshell studies, as part of Wellcome Collection’s new (and free!) exhibition ‘Forensics: The anatomy of crime’, which opened this week.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 27 Feb, 2015 8:32 am

    Reblogged this on trainharder4 and commented:
    Bit strange

  2. telescoper permalink
    28 Feb, 2015 10:24 am

    Reblogged this on In the Dark and commented:
    I just came across this post from the Wellcome institute blog and thought I would share it here. It’s linked to a (free) exhibition that opened this week in London which I must try to see. It includes some disturbing but fascinating photographs of the “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” a collection of eighteen miniature crime scene models that were built in the 1940’s and 50’s by a progressive criminologist by the name of Frances Glessner Lee. The models, which were based on actual homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths, were created to train detectives to assess visual evidence.You can see a complete set of the photographs here.

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