The First Lady of Miniature CSI

Frances Glessner Lee, the giant astride the world of miniature crime scenes, died nearly 50 years ago. Lee built a collection of what she called “nutshell studies“, each a tiny, high-precision recreation of a room in which a murder had been committed.

Each featured a little victim, in or on whom the wee murder weapon was embedded or enwrapped. The many lavishly grim elements of each diorama were, mostly, copped and composited from stories of real crimes.

Lee and her nutshell studies have a context. She endowed an entire, entirely new programme at Harvard Medical School: the department of legal medicine. The concocted crime scenes served as its mesmerising centre of activity.

The authorities know that Lee manufactured her evidence from whole cloth, sliced wallpaper, glass, wood, paint, and other materials. They know that she bankrolled the entire operation. They know that…

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.

BONUS: A documentary film being prepared about the Nutshell Studies: