We’re not in Etsy any more

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

You know when you discover something AMAZING and then the moment you discover it, you realize everyone else already knew? Or is that just me? Well I don’t care if you already know; it’s here because this is the single most radical use of extreme sewing skills I’ve ever seen.

Frances Glessner Lee is known as The Mother of Forensic Investigation because, in the 1940s and 50s she took it upon herself to create 20 tiny 1:20 dioramas of murder scenes, as teaching aids for the Baltimore Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. I’m not telling that story here—it’s been perfectly related by the photographer of these images, Corinne May Botz, in her eponymous book: The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death’, and there was thisgreat piece on Slate by Rachel Nuwer. Not to mention a John Waters docu. No, I’m just taking a moment to honor the subversive potential of this most domestic art. Lee, a wealthy Chicagoan, took it upon herself to use her (she must have felt) quite pointless, feminine arts of embroidery, needlework and miniature making to train then-clueless investigators, spending $3000 - $4500 of her own money apiece on her painstakingly reconstructed murder scenes. It’s the world’s darkest dollshouse and it is still in use today, for the Harvard Associates in Police Science homicide investigation seminar. Feminist hero or what?


Kate Sekules
Kate Sekules


1 Response

Willie Snyder
Willie Snyder

April 07, 2021

I mend. Always have, since I asked my mother, a knitter who seldom finished projects, how to hand stitch canvas and jean material. My father’s father, a carpet salesman, sewed up rugs made of carpet samples. My family – I – has several. I still mend.

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