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The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death
Created in the 1930s and 1940s, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death are a series of eighteen intricately designed dollhouse-style dioramas. The creator, Frances Glessner Lee, was a millionaire heiress who is affectionately known as the “Patron Saint of Forensic Science.”
Lee designed these detailed scenarios, based on composites of actual cases, to help train detectives sharpen their investigative skills. Each Nutshell contains a doll corpse (or several) in a death scene that could be easily misinterpreted.
The dioramas first were used in the 1940s for a law enforcement lecture series known as the Harvard Associates of Police Science (HAPS) through the Harvard Legal Medicine department. In 1966, when the department dissolved, the Nutshells went to the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), where they are on permanent loan. The Nutshells are still used today as teaching tools in the HAPS seminar series that Lee founded.
Originally, Lee and her carpenters created 20 Nutshells. One was destroyed in transit to the Maryland OCME and another is missing. The Nutshells are not open to the general public, nor are the solutions available in order to preserve their integrity as a teaching tool.
The scale of the Nutshells is 1:12 inches.