Nutshell Studies Loaned to Renwick Gallery for Exhibition

By , October 13, 2017
Frances Glessner Lee and Alan R. Moritz working with furnishings for the Nutshell Studies, 1948. Records of the Department of Legal Medicine, Harvard Medical Library

Frances Glessner Lee and Alan R. Moritz working with furnishings for the Nutshell Studies, 1948. Records of the Department of Legal Medicine, Harvard Medical Library

In 1946, Frances Glessner Lee donated the first ten models of what have become known as the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death to Harvard Medical School’s Department of Legal Medicine. She followed that gift with seven more models in 1948, eventually giving a total of eighteen Nutshells to the Medical School. The Nutshells, intricate dioramas depicting mysterious homicides, suicides, and natural deaths, were built by Lee to serve as teaching tools for the Harvard Associates in Police Science seminars that she hosted each year. In 1967, the Department of Legal Medicine closed, and Harvard loaned the Nutshell Studies to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Baltimore, Maryland, where Department of Legal Medicine alumnus Russell Fisher was the medical examiner. Fisher moved the Harvard Associates in Police Science seminars to Baltimore and kept the teaching mission of the Nutshells alive.

For the first time since being loaned to Baltimore, the eighteen Harvard Nutshells will be on display for the public. They are being hosted by the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery for their exhibition Murder is Her Hobby. In addition to the Harvard Nutshells, the exhibition will also display a nineteenth Glessner Lee Nutshell from the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, courtesy of the Bethlehem Heritage Society. The exhibition will run from October 20, 2017 to January 28, 2018. More information regarding Murder is Her Hobby can be found on the Renwick Gallery website, in the Washington Post, and in HMS news.

More information about the Department for Legal Medicine can be found in Corpus Delicti: The Doctor as the Detective, a physical and digital exhibit curated by Center for the History of Medicine Public Service Librarian Jack Eckert.

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