Tagmystery

Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death are a series of dollhouses built to mimic real crime scenes. They were created as a teaching tool. A collection of tiny crime scenes created by Frances Glessner Lee, the “Godmother of Crime Science Investigation”.

In 1936 she gave a large sum of money to Harvard University to establish the first program of legal medicine.  The program trained doctors to become medical examiners. In 1945, Lee started and presided over week-long training seminars to teach police how to gather clues from a crime scene.

Given that it was logistically and legally impossible to visit real crime scenes during the training seminars, Lee decided she would build miniature death scenes for the police to study. Each one would be based on a real death.

A doll lays dead on the floor of a bathroom.

I learned about these studies from an episode of 99% Invisible from 2015. I noted at the time the Nutshell Studies were moved to the Baltimore Medical Examiner after Lee’s death but they were not on display since they are still active teaching tools.

In a chance reading of the Washington Posts “13 Things to do in DC this weekend” post, I learned they were on display at the Renwick Gallery. They have been on display since October but I only learned about it this weekend. Bill as “This rare public display explores the unexpected intersection between craft and forensic science” I couldn’t possibly resist.

My wife and I visited the gallery today and it’s a good thing we got there early. We arrived about an hour after opening for today and there was already a line out the door. The exhibit was elbow-to-elbow people and many were trying to solve the mysteries at the expense of everyone else behind them.

The crowd of people trying to see the dollhouses.

The staff did a good job of keeping people moving and trying to get people through but it was a losing battle with so many people trying to see such small objects, they did their best. Even with all the people, I had a blast seeing these works in person.

The level of detail was exquisite. The tiny bodies were burned, hung, shot and dead from all manner of unexplained circumstances. Each study had the original statement taken from the event they depicted. There was enough story to set their scene we were looking at, but there were no solutions. Since they are still used as teaching tools, that makes sense.

View from above of a multiple rooms of a house with dead doll bodies.

Mysteries Within

Upgrade. Buy something new. There’s a better one. There’s a newer one. There’s something slightly better out there that you could own.

Stop using Last Year’s Model. Line up for the new model!

Read the Self Repair Manifesto and get one of your own.

Ifixit Manifesto

The Manifesto

Stop throwing away something perfectly good with a small problem. Stop giving up on something that can be easily repaired. Stop buying something completely new because of a small issue.

Reading Stephen Hackett’s turning screws resonated with me. He writes,

But there’s something about having a screwdriver in hand that I just can’t get over.
I don’t think I ever will.

Repair work is stressful. There’s no doubt. Every time I unscrew a case and crack it open there is a mystery waiting inside.

The stories accompanying the mysteries are usually as good as the mysteries itself. Mysteries like I found in Bartending: Memoirs of an Apple Genius which chronicled Mr. Hackett’s experiences working as a pre-iPhone Apple Genius. My favorite story ended with,

I guess the moral of his story is that you should always check whether you’re peeing in a bathroom or on an open MacBook.

Whether it be a laptop, desktop, gaming console or mp3 player there is mystery hidden beneath its plastic and metal shell.

I have no idea what I am going to find when I get inside of it. Whether I am repairing something at work for a customer, or repairing a device I own the mystery is always there.

I enjoy repairing things. I enjoy getting inside something and figuring out why it doesn’t work. I like to repair technology and nurse it back to health. I like to take old discarded things and make them new and useful again.

I enjoy the mystery and the accompanying stories.

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