The Nutshell Studies of Frances Glessner Lee
Inspiration for More
Popular Science recently featured another instructor who uses doll-size crime scenes. Tom Mauriello teaches criminalistics at the University of Maryland in College Park, not far from where the Nutshell studies can be viewed. He's aware of them and was impressed enough to create scenarios of his own. Yet there's a difference. The dolls and crime scene fixtures he offers students can be handled. In fact, he wants students to handle them and he even goes so far as to say that those who do will make better investigators than those who hang back. Curiosity is key.
For his purposes, Mauriello has created six scenarios, including a car locked inside a garage and a doll in bed with a gun. Students can figure out what occurred from clues planted around the scene. They can also use laboratory equipment to analyze unusual spots or substances, just like real investigators.
Yet Lee's creations do not sit idle. The Harvard Associates in Police Science continue to use the models in its bi-annual teaching seminars. A few have been retired because they proved a bit too enigmatic, but the others are excellent resources. Still, they're reserved for police officers.
While one of the Nutshell Studies is featured in the lobby of the ME's office, the others can be viewed on the third floor, but interested parties must write for permission. They can address inquires to Dr. David Fowler, MD, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, 111 Penn Street, Baltimore, MD 21201.
When Lee died, her friend, Erle Stanley Garner, author of the Perry Mason series, wrote in her obituary, "Captain Lee had a strong individuality, a unique, unforgettable character, was a fiercely competent fighter, and a practical idealist." She certainly left us a most unique approach to crime education, and she clearly lived her childhood dream.