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tv   American Artifacts Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death  CSPAN  April 8, 2021 1:15am-2:07am EDT

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ocme of maryland located in baltimore statewide agency, and these are the nutshell studies of unexplained death. which were made in the 1940s between 1943 and 1948 by frances glessner lee? is the mother of forensic science francis glistenerly is the really the only woman to make a major contribution to the field of forensic science, but what she did was absolutely revolutionize everything. and everything that we come to know in a csi type crime scene investigation whether in popular culture and television and movies in real life. is all due to francis
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glistenerly and what she did at harvard university in boston. this is a diorama model that was made around 1943 by frances glessner lee. to train homicide detectives to practice crime scene investigation. this is one of the tallest ones called barn when the earliest ones that she made. and represents a fellow who's hanging from a rope. his name is even wallace. and mr. wallace was an argumentative type of person according to the information that's in the front of the cabinet even wallace a local farmer was found dead by his wife imelda. mrs. imelda wallace was questioned and gave the following statement. mr. wallace was hard to get along with. things didn't go the way he wanted he would go out to the barn threatening suicide mr. wallace was stand on a bucket and put a noose around his neck, but she would always manage to persuade him not to do it.
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and the afternoon of july 14th around 4 o'clock. they had a dispute and mr. wallace made his usual threats, but she didn't follow him to the barn right away when she did go to the barn. she found the premises as represented in the model. the bucket usually stood in the corner just outside just inside the barn door, but yesterday she'd used it and left it out by the pump. the rope is always been kept fast into the beam just the way it was found. it was part of the regular barn hoist. this is what there is and and she's pointing out if you look at the the hoist the rope the rope is wrapped around the beam, so it can't actually you can't actually pull it up and down. she did not in other words. she did not time there and then pull them up to do that. he couldn't do that because the rope doesn't doesn't move. they're all based on real cases. she said that the facts are true. everything you see depicted actually happened, although not necessarily in the same scene
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and they're intentionally ambiguous. there she didn't want to have something so you look at it. you get one looking, you know, boom. i got it. i know what happened. they're they're really require some time to think about and they're not meant to be solved. and that's a point that's it's difficult for people that the human mind has a you know this drive to solve things. we want an answer and we look at it and we want to know who did it and all these things and it's totally beside the point in some cases. first of all, these aren't all homicides. there are suicides natural causes undetermined suicides and and the whole range accidents and everything. so it's not, you know, if that were just an answer you could walk, you know, homicide suicide natural causes and it's not that it's not getting the answer. it's that journey getting there. it's not so much to say that this is you know, this is a suicide or this is a homicide. what makes you think so, when she made these these were all
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made the collection between 1943 and 1948. five year period and each one of these costs approximately would have cost to build a real house. at the time there were between three and six thousand dollars each which translates to between 1680,000 in present day money. so she literally spent a fortune to make these. and they're just extraordinarily detailed. still used today as they were intended to train homicide detectives. so in 21st century with all this virtual reality and computer simulation these still serve a purpose that can't be done by any other medium. there's some terrific details about this for one if if you look very carefully. and you see that every plank of wood. is a sandwich of two boards put together. i always admired the look of it because the wood is aged so beautifully and it turned out
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that this wood came from an old barn that was on her property in new hampshire on the rocks where she lived at the time. and so she had her carpenter. saw off whatever. it is a 12th of an inch of the thickness just the aged surface. and then you have to pick out the pieces where the nut holes are small enough to be plausible glue your boards together into planks and then build. the diorama so every every wood every piece of wood that's in it's visible is actually a sandwich together two pieces. and the backdrop is a is a photograph. it's bigger than a five by seven. i guess. i don't really large illustration. where did she get the idea to make these models and had it been done before? models like this had not been done before her background was as a socialite. she grew up in a very wealthy
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family. her dad owned an agricultural machinery company that became a part of international harvester. and she was born in 1878. so it was a different era. and there weren't a lot of career paths for women at the time. she was not expected to work outside of the home. she wanted to go to medical school. but harvard medical school didn't admit women until 1945. so that was out of the question. and so she did society lady things, you know going to social meetings and having receptions and tea parties and decorative arts and these sorts of things francis's mother. francis mcbeth classner was quite talented and very skilled as a seamstress and silversmith the jewelry maker. she raised bees so if young frances glessner lee she from the time that she was a toddler and able to hold a needle in her fingers was learning how to sew
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into knit and crochet and do all these things. so that was her background and she had an interest in miniatures miniatures are much more of a thing back in that day, but she in 1913 created a miniature in the same scale of one inch to one foot of the entire chicago symphony orchestra her parents were big fans of culture and the arts and so she did the entire orchestra. the display is around eight feet long and there are 90 pieces in it, which is now at the chicago symphony orchestra and each person in the orchestra is finished. they're with the hair and and all that as to represent their real life counterpart and and she had the instruments and she did the evening wear formal evening wear that they're wearing and in all of it and she did this entire display as a gift for her mother in three
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months. she did 90 pieces in 90 days, including a little carnation and the lapel and the whole thing and just extraordinary work and then the following year. she did a a quartet called the fonzalea quartet, which was a string quartet was a quite a big deal in early 20th century. they were sort of the foo fighters of string quartets and the first quartet apparently to have their own record label, so they're able to get a following and have a fan base and into all these things that we take for granted today. so she did in the same scale of one inch to one foot these four figures. and presented it to the the quartet and that's a museum in switzerland. so she frances got married. she had children got divorced and i did a variety of things, but it really wasn't until 1929 when she used 52 years old that her life take took a quite a dramatic change. she reacquainted her friendship with a family friend george burgess mcgrath and george
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mcgrath had gone to harvard medical school was her brother. george's best friend or the two georges. they even shared the same birthday. they're best buddies. and george mcgrath graduated from from medical school and he was trained as a pathologist and in 1907 was appointed as the medical examiner in suffolk county which included boston and a boston had the first medical examiner's office in the country. before then the entire country was on the corner system, which is entirely different arrangement than medical examiners and in 1907. george mcgrath was literally america's first forensic pathologist. and so he went to europe to be trained in the capitals of medicine in europe and england, edinburgh and vienna and paris and learned. what was then called legal medicine now we call forensic medicine and he learned these methods of scientific death investigation and these sorts of things which he then came back to the united states and
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incorporated that into his work as a medical examiner and into his lectures that he gave you his lecture at harvard medical school and teaching medical students about legal medicine and mcgrath gained this reputation as a crime doctor sherlocki and crime doctor and he was consultant in cases all through and massachusetts and new england and all over the place. he was the medical examiner on the sacramento and case he was the medical examiner and the 1919 boston molasses disaster that many people are familiar with with this enormous think of molasses ruptured and killed all these people babe ruth the mysterious days death of babe ruth's first wife and these sorts of things so, frances glessner lee new mcgrath when she was much much younger when she was a 15 year old they went to she and the two georges went to the 1893 world's ferret in chicago and rode the ferris wheel together, but it wasn't
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until 1929 when their hospitalized in boston at the same time and they spent their summer together when he really took the time to explain about his work and about the coroner system and really flipped a switch in her mind and she totally found something that she could really synchrote into and really to occupy her time and she devoted the rest of her life towards fulfilling george mcgrath's vision for the country in terms of the medical examiner moving away from the corner system to a medical model of scientific based medical examiner system and as we should do for the rest of her life. so these this is these are actually a small part of what she achieves she's mainly known if you read about her online and various places. she's depicted as this eccentric older woman a wealthy older woman who made creepy doll houses and she's known for the
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dioramas, but really what she actually achieved was much larger much more pivotal. she was a you know, a major injury figure in forensic science. she is almost single-handedly. she is the the person who carried the torch and made sure that medical examiner. grew and flourished in the united states and and for what we have today. that's what she did. the thing was before before her homicide seminar. there was no training for police officers and so through their clumsy efforts. they would do things different lack of knowing any better. they would you know roll over a body or move the body or pick up and handle a murder weapon walk through blood put their finger through bullet holes and these sorts of things so there was no training and many police officers. honestly didn't even have high school diploma. so they were education wasn't the highest priority and so, you know, she changed how that in 1945 working mainly with state police. she felt they stay police were a
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better trained better educated more discipline. and so they covered the whole jurisdiction, so she focused and state police at first and so she and the chairman of the department of legal medicine at harvard dr. alan moore. it's who is there at the time they came up with a very intensive week long homicide seminar five days where they would learn about autopsies, so they would watch an autopsies and they learn about strangulation and burns and drowning and poisons and all these things but one of the most critical aspects of a forensic investigation is the crime scene itself. the scene police are the first responders. these are sometimes the only one who are at the scene of a death and so what happens in those first few moments, affects everything else if they compromise something if they if they fail to recognize things that may be significant.
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then the whole invested the whole trajectory of the investigation is altered and so you can make it and break it right there in the crime scene. so, how do you practice? processing observing a crime scene without a real crime scene. you can't just take the whole group the whole class of 40 or 80 people to a crime scene and have everybody walk around and do things so that was her idea was to create a crime scene that you can't walk through. you can only use your eyes and so she created these they're all based on real cases. she said that the facts are true. everything you see depicted actually happened, although not necessarily in the same scene and their intentionally ambiguous. it's not so much to say that this is you know, this is a suicide or this is a homicide. what makes you think so, how what do you see that leads you in that direction, so it's meant for when they have the homicide seminar.
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they're broken up into groups. and so there might be a team of you know, five six seven officers and their purposefully broken up so you don't get to work with somebody who's with their same department. you have to work with people. you don't know and work together as a team and and the first day of the seminar they're assigned to diorama and they say, you know, yours is a three room dwelling. they're giving no direction. they say you're you're dioramas is through room dwelling. you've got the week come back at the end of the week and tell us what you see and that's all they're told so they're on their own. and and that's it. and so these police officers will spend hours hours and hours and hours as they would with the real crime scene and you really need to examine this you have to get down and and really use your eyes and francis had a system to it. she she wanted people she recommended that people start
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and the left side and you move your eyes in a spiral in a clockwise spiral working towards the middle of the room and you do this to force yourself to look at everything. there's a real tendency towards what we would call selection bias you start to see things and you're beginning to develop a hypothesis in your mind. so there's a tendency toward. only noticing things that sort of fit into your hypothesis and overlooking things that don't so a lot of the training inference science and in the homicides seminar is to withhold judgment don't you know, you have to consider things even if they don't make sense necessarily so you have to force yourself to look at everything and she filled them with detail. there are so many extraneous things red herrings. it really can get overwhelming. you don't know what to look at. so you really are forced to look at everything that something
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could be it's literally small as the head of a pin and could be significant. so it takes a lot of time to really really examine and look very closely at everything the whole premise is that we uri we are i am the am the investigator arriving at the scene. so you're given very sketchy information. this is preliminary information. this one's called three room dwelling reported to the nutshell laboratories and monday, november 1st. 1937. robert judson a foreman and a shoe factory his wife kate judson and their baby linda may judson were discovered dead by paul abbott a neighbor. mr. abbott was questioned and gave the following statement. bob judson, and he drove to their work together alternating cars. this was abbott's week to drive on monday morning november 1st. he was late around 7:35. so when blowing his horn didn't bring judson out abbott went to
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the factory without him believing judson would come in on his own car. sarah abbott, paul abbott's wife was also questioned and gave the following statement. after paul left she watched for bob to come out and finally around 8:15 am seeing no signs of activity at the judson house. she went over to the porch and tried the front door. but it was locked and she knocked and called out but got no answer. she then went to this kitchen porch. but that door was also locked. she looked in through the glass and then thoroughly aroused by the side of the gun and the blood she ran home and notified the police. this model shows the premises just before mrs. abbott went to the house. and then it beneath that it says no to bene note. well don broke around 5 am sunrise is 6:17 weather is clear. no lights related in the house. both outside doors were locked on the inside. so that's what you're faced
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with. premises are secured three people dead. gun in the middle of the kitchen floor and blood all over the place. so just tell us something about some of the details in this one that you find. interesting perplexing one thing that's interesting is that you can't see in almost every diorama. you can't see the victim's face. she's purposely obscured people. so you're left with this uneasy feeling you want to see more you want to reach in there and and roll him over so you can see his face. you can't do that. so it's very interesting that she withhold so much information. this one is that one of the largest one in terms of square footage the three room dwelling. there's three victims in it. this is the only one with three victims. it's the only one unfortunately there is a baby in the carriage
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in the crib and the other room. and there's a bunch of very interesting things about this. people ask you know why they cost so much. why were they so expensive and aside from having a carpenter on her staff? full time doing this work for her. she really spared no expense and having these done. there's a newspaper here on the floor, which is from the batavia herald. there is a batavia new york. it's not that batavia. that's from the batavia, illinois. and that's an actual front page of a newspaper. that she had photographically reduced and made into a printing block for a single impression. and that was it if you look beneath the sink. there are some utensils that are hanging down there. there's a little sieve there on the right and then a hand mixer
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and i guess that's a potato ricer. but that hand mixer second from the right is actually a charm bracelet charm and that's made out of gold that she had painted to look like steel just to have a little due dead hanging beneath the cabinet. again, what that one item cost? it was not not cheap, but she had to have it. she the iron, that's on top of the stove here. that happens to be a monopoly piece. i found the actual piece that it matches from online. and so she was very creative this shotgun that's on the kitchen floor. the the barrel of the shotgun i found the receipts. the guy who made it lived in virginia. that barrel is a nail that's the has been drilled out lengthwise through the nail. there's a really cool sewing machine over here. and if you look really really
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closely. not only is there a needle in the sewing machine, but it's threaded. there's a little bobbin and a needle threaded in his sewing machine. it has absolutely nothing to do with anything, but there it is. so is this mind blowing just absolutely mind blowing the kinds of things that are in here. and that's just one, you know one quick glance at one diorama. i have not looked at the solutions the solutions are kept under lock and key so, i don't know. you know the actual written solutions, but i've heard so much about them that i think i know an awful lot about them, but there is still every time i look at them every time i'm in the room every time i examine closely there's still details that you know. there's always something new. there's you recognize something different see something i never seen before. there's just no into it. you know as i said each one of these costs.
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about what it costs to build a real house. so this cost. thousands of dollars to make and then she burned it. she used to blow torch to burn it. well this one actually in the book you can read what this is based on. this is called burn cabin and is reported to nutshell laboratory sunday, august 15th. 1943. and nutshell laboratories was a was a construct. it was a fiction. that that francis glistenerly created and that there's this, you know fictional laboratory in boston. daniel perkins was missing and presumed dead philip perkins. daniel perkins's nephew gave the following information. on saturday evening, august 14th. he had come to spend the night with his uncle as he frequently did in the middle of the night. he was awakened by the smell of smoke and ran outside to find the house on fire and the fire engines arriving. he said that he'd been very
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confused and could not remember any other details. joseph mccarthy and driver of the fire engine number six was questioned and gave the following statement. the call of the fire was received at 1:30 am sunday, august 15th upon arrival of the fire engine. the fire was quickly extinguished before the building was completely destroyed. he noticed philip perkins fully clothed to windering around near the house. the model represents the premises after the fire was extinguished and before any investigation had started or any portion of the premises disturbed. so there you go. they show up at 130 in the morning. he says by the time he was wandering around the nephew. the fire engines were arriving fire engines get there and they say the nephews fully clothed wandering around. what do you make of that? i found out that this is based on. the case of florence small
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frederick small almost got away with the perfect murder and in reading and reading the the accounts of it. this was a case that was investigated by george mcgrath. and i was reading about the florence small case and what he did was. to frederick small rigged up an alarm clock to detonate hours after he had an alibi. he went into boston. he was ours away and out of the bloom. the house you're ups in the flames and wife is found dead. and it turned out that he said it using an alarm clock. so after i read this i was so excited. oh my god. oh my god. i gotta go to the office. i gotta go to the office. is there an alarm clock? i'm looking look they're in the dresser. there's an alarm clock. well, there you go. unbelievable it's not what happened in this particular scenario, but i just i knew this this got to be based on the
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frederick small and and the alarm clock just sealed it for me. this is the only interactive one. and it's called unpapered bedroom. i can open it up. but if you pull this up you can look under the pillow. but i mean if you look it's the plaster has been patched. i don't know how she did that but those walls have been patched before if you look in the corner, it's just i'm just just the linoleum and sad, you know, it's just sort of the walls are kind of grimy. there's smudges around a light switch and you know, it's just just seems sad. and this says that there was reported a nutshell laboratories and march 31st. 1942. there is mrs. rose fishman. he's a widow. she's found dead by samuel weiss. the janitor and mr. weiss was
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questioning gave the following statement several tenants had complained of an odor and march 30th. he began looking for the source of the odor mrs. fishman didn't answer her bell and he rang it and upon checking with other tenants. he learned that she had not been seen recently therefore. he looked into her mailbox and saw that her mel had accumulated for several days. he answered mrs. fisherman's apartment found it in order, but the order was very strong the bathroom door was closed and when he tried to open the door, he could only go get it open a little way and the odor was much much stronger. so he immediately went downstairs and climbed into the fire escape to enter the bathroom through the window. he could not remember if he found the window open or closed the model shows the premises as he found him. so this is the moment. whether you let the janitor claims that he this is exactly the way you found things. so, that's all you have to start with. these statements could be incomplete. they could be wrong people could be lying, you know people who
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commit crimes. cover up their their tracks and so it's it's not uncommon for a homicide to be staged to look like a suicide or a suicide staged to look like a homicide so they can get their insurance money. so in some of these some of these are staged. some of them the takeaway is something's not right. there's an inconsistency between what you're being told and what you see something one of the other is incorrect. and so that's really the only thing you're supposed to get away from it takeaway is that something's not right. this may be staged and that's the lesson that's if you get that out of it, that's enough. a few interesting things about this one, but in terms of what i think of as you know, emotional impact per square inch this one as small as it is has so much going on into it. there are mineral deposits in the bathtub i don't know how you
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do that. it's galvanized. the schmutz and the wall from the heating vent. the worn spots and the linoleum and if you look very carefully beneath the sink. the boards are water stained. that they have dripped in the past. and so the whole thing. when when you sort take everything together. is this gorgeous english window? it seems like it was once a grand residence that has fallen on harder times. but there's these hints of former glory. and that's exactly what happened to her prairie avenue neighborhood. so this is i think is sort of alluding to the changes that went on were these grand mansions were broken up into boarding have a boarding rooms and and these sorts of things boarding houses and rented out into apartments and these sorts of things.
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and i think that's what she's suggesting here reported a nutshell laboratories by desk sergeant moriarty of the central city police as he recalled it. maggie wilson was found dead by lizzie miller ms. miller was able to supply the following information. is miller roomed in the same house as maggie wilson but knew her only as they met in the hall he thought maggie was a subject to fits seizures a couple of male friends came to see maggie fairly regularly. and sunday night in early november in 1896 the men were there. and there was a good deal of drinking going on sometime after they left lizzy heard that the water was still running in the bathroom upon opening the door. she found at the scene as set forth in the model. so this is the moment that her. turning other tenant resident open up the door and found her like this. but there's the detail work that's in it.
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the the linoleum in front of the commode is worn down where the feet would be and there's warren spots in front of the door. now the only way to do that is to put a piece of cloth on your finger and you spend hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours rubbing it and that's what you do. that's how you make that weren't spot. you have to wear it down and there's there's so much. empathy that's in this room. to really pick up a nose details. i mean that's really remarkable that she would see these things. and then incorporate that just to evoke this. feeling she wanted not just about the facts of the death. but she wanted people to get a sense of who these people were. that's just so depressing it is so it's just so sad. the water flowing on her face is cellophane tape.
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it must be original 1940 cellophane tape. it has never been replaced which i think is incredible that it's not yellowed and cracked and crumbled. this one's called saloon in jail. as reported to nutshell laboratory sunday, november 12. 1944 frank harris who's a docked laborer was found dead in a jail cell after having been found long on the street by city patrolman dennis mulcahy. patrolman mckay, he stated that on saturday night, november 11th 1944 at half past eleven o'clock. he was walking his beat and dock street, and he saw a man lying sprawled out on the sidewalk in front of pat's place a saloon. the man was breathing and smelt strongly of liquor the patrolman called for the wagon which took the man to station to where he was locked up in a single cell. his union cardboard the name of frank harris address at seven and a half water street, and he appeared to be very drunk. there were no remarks of
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violence on him. on sunday morning, november 12th at seven o'clock when rounds were made in station 2 mr. harris was found dead in his cell as represented in the model. so a few things about this. some fun stuff about this the banana peel there's so many red herrings. there's a brick there's a banana peel. all these things are suggest violence. francis had such a sense of humor. inside the jail cell. there's graffiti. scroll down the wall. you can't see it unless you're inside the gels you can't see it. you notice that there's there's this post there's this thing sticking up there inside the doorway. which you cannot see at all? that's actually a poster for a boxing match. there's a bar inside there. the only way you can see that poster is if you were six inches tall you walk inside and turn around and take a look. it had never seen the light a day before.
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this is another one just got great depth to it and the outdoors light and just got sunlight and all these things going on. kitchen reported to nutshell laboratories, wednesday, april 12th, 1944 barbara burns a housewife was found dead by police responded to a call from the husband of the victim fred barnes. will give the following statement. around 4 pm on the afternoon of tuesday, april 11th 1944. he had gone downtown on an errand for his wife. he returned around an hour and a half later and found the outside door to the kitchen locked. he was standing open. it was standing open when he left mr. burns attempted knocking and calling but got no answer. you tried the front door, but it was also locked. he then went to the kitchen window which was closed and locked he looked in and he saw what appeared to be his wife
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lying on the floor. he then summoned the police. the model shows the premises just before the police forced open the kitchen door. so there you go. so this is this one's called blue bedroom. is reported to a nutshell laboratories and november 3rd 1943. charles logan and employee in a box factory was discovered dead by his wife carolyn logan mrs. logan gave the following statements. on tuesday night, november 2nd 1943 she was alone in the house when charles came home around midnight. he had been drinking and was in a quarrelsome mood. they had an argument, but she was finally able to persuade him to go upstairs to bed. she waited downstairs for him to go to sleep before. she also went to bed. after about half an hour, she heard him moving around and shortly thereafter heard a shot.
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she ran upstairs and found a situation as illustrated by the model. there you go. she's downstairs. here's a shot runs upstairs. and this is what she finds. do you buy it? these were meant to be observed in a darkened room. really? all the light is supposed to come from out from within the dioramas. i've always loved that backdrop. it is so cool. and when i got here, there's a light bulb this back behind there. but in front of that space there was no light so it was dark there and i'm fiddling around i was messing with this and looking in there. and i saw that there are outlets up here. that there are outlets. it was no bulbas in them. so i found some bulbs that fit. there's like christmas tree lights and put them in there.
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and there were white lights and it looked all wrong. it is totally it was to break because it's supposed to be near midnight. it couldn't be right. so when the smithsonian's here, i don't even know if we can do this. it was written here he said blue and green. so francis had written that. yep. and nobody knew it. so the smithsonian guys go. wow, you know, we're gonna have to we got got to figure this out. get the right colors and when they put the green and blue bulbs in there, it gives it this. totally different look to it. it's this sort of you know light pollution and nighttime kind of gloomy. totally changed the character of the of the look of it. they were an exhibit at the smithsonian. this is the poster from it was
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called burgers or hobby. there are an exhibit from october of 2017 till end of january 2018. and at the renwick gallery, which is on pennsylvania avenue right across the street from the white house. and at the time it was just bunkers and around 100,000 people went to go see the exhibit. it was their first and only public exhibition. and it was the second most popular exhibit at the renwick gallery's history. up until that time. and as a part of in order to move these things. 35 miles down the street to washington dc they needed to be cleaned. they need to be not repaired but a strengthened the burn cabin and this is actual burn material all this wood. and so there are parts of it are literally tissue thin. and so you can't just pick this
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up and hold it on your lap and take it down to dc. it would just crumble but there is some sort of polymer that it didn't even brush it on. it was dripped down the wood and the wood absorbs it so it's strengthened it without changing the the color or the shininess or anything is totally transparent, but this is all been strengthened and secured when they do conservation. it's not restoration. they're not making it look new again. they're preserving it and it's done invisibly good conservation. you shouldn't even see anything there? it's invisible. when the smithsonian had their had their hands on these there these were all on incandescent lights. which generated heat? francis was very creative in sourcing materials. she used, you know incandescent like, you know refrigerator lights.
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they're big light bulbs turn signal lights. they track down the origins of all the bulbs that they found there were flashlights turn signal lights marine lights all these things which are getting hard to find for one thing. secondly was that they generated a lot of heat so that was damaging and ultraviolet rays, and the third thing was that some were flickering the what is a striped bedroom that was flickering and it totally freaked them out because that meant that they're loose wires and there is a risk of fire. so what they did was scott president roosevelt, who is their lighting designer at the smithsonian devised miniature lights? all of these lights are custom made and this light bulb is actually that's an led. that they have fabricated to resemble they are mimicking vintage 1940s incandescent lights.
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but every light now is a computer-controlled. this is all absolutely custom-made. nothing's off. the shelf every bulb is on its own computer-controlled circuit and you can change the the the brightness and you can adjust it that way so they're in such a condition now. these bulbs should never burn out in my lifetime. you should all be good for generations. so, what's your job here? and how did you get involved in this my job here? i am the executive assistant to the chief medical examiner. and i i do whatever the chief tells me to do is what i do i have been here since 2012. now i before i was here, i was committing journalism for many years. and i first wrote about the nutshell studies of unexplained death in 1992 for a newspaper the american medical association.
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so i knew about them. i knew about francis, but that absolutely nothing to for me getting the job here. i got the job because my first career before as a journalist was i was was an emt and a paramedic. and in 2012, i was working for a network of hyperlocal news websites. and i arranged a visit. with those about 12 of us editors who came through here at the time. this building was brand new. and while we're in a tour they mentioned. so many mentioned that yeah, we got this new position as an executive assistant for the chief. they're looking for somebody with the medical background and media experience and comfortable, you know dealing with members of the public lawyers and police and so yeah, i got i got the job and and these literally fell on my lap
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it was you know, i was here for a while and jerry d. who's the keeper of the secrets, you know practically through the keys at me. they're here you deal with it. now you can change the light bulbs. it's all yours you you know, so i did. and i i was acquiring material. i would find documents related to the nutshells and old photos any sorts of of things. so that's basically curating. and and i just was gathering this material and whenever somebody wanted to come in and videotape or photograph them. they would be sent to me when people would come and visit they'd say, is there a biography about her? no, there's no biography. and you know, it just really it was frustrating reading about her on online and reading what people would write about her and there's so much misinformation that these things and they keep getting repeated over and over and over again people would read the same things and do their own spin on the same stories. and there's this persistence story that she was forbidden to go to college by her parents,
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which is absolutely not true. there's no evidence that that's the case at all. she wanted to go to harvard medical school and harvard medical school didn't admit women. that's the truth. that's what happened those sorts of things. so, you know, it really was obvious that her this was a piece of american history it's a piece of forensic science history policing history. that was totally overlooked and never been written about she was known among certain people. she's known by miniaturist. she's known by, you know certain weird people who are into morbid things, but you know, she was not, you know, she was literally the mother of forensic saying she was the first woman to be a commissioned as a police captain in the united states in 1943. so you know, it was obvious her story needed to be told and who better to do it than me.
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so it was a real privilege to be able to do that, but that's how i got involved in it. the book was published in favorite was released in february of 2020 by sourcebooks in the united states and it will be out in paper soft cover in january of 2021. how did they get to baltimore from? massachusetts francis established her homicide seminar at harvard medical school in boston in 1945, and she though his shoes based their the program that she established in in legal medicine at the medical school. that was all up in boston. she died in 1962 and boston harvard medical school lost interest and they didn't want to have anything to do with the department of legal medicine and they eventually pulled the plug on it. they just discontinued the whole department and they were really ready to get rid of the homicide seminar. the harvard did not like the idea of cops city cops being in
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the and the campus among the elites and all that. so they the the person who was the chief here at the time. i was russell fisher. he was chief from 1949 till his close to his death in 1982 and russell fischer had been through the harvard program. he was one of francis's favorites very promising young pathologist. and so he she recommended him for the job. here is the chief medical examiner for the state of maryland. and when she died in 1962 russell fisher went to harvard and said, you know, we'll pick up the homicide seminar. we'll just move it down to baltimore and we'll do it down here. so they said great take him with you and they moved down here in 1968 and they've been here ever since. so they're here on permanent loan for the purpose of teaching. and we've had now the homicide seminar here in baltimore.
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it's been over. it's been over it was fifty years. it's a long time. well other artifacts from a different era when i first saw these in 1992. i always just swept away by the art and and i i was you know initially interested. in their craft and their art, you know, so and that's what got me drawn into him, but these are a truly one of a kind collection of artifacts. that are pivotal in the history of forensic science, and they are just as valuable. today as they were in 1945. some of them i mean it may look a little dated, but honestly some of these if you put a little laptop computer in living room or something like that, it could pass for almost there's not you know hasn't changed all that much and the thing is that sadly the facts of violent death haven't changed all that much. there's not a you know, a new
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millennium way of killing people, you know, there's still blades and bullets and poisons and strangling and these sorts of things. so that's that's pretty timeless. so and in that regard except for these superficial details of you know, looking a little dated in the cold stove and those sort of stuff they're still as relevant today as they were then but you know, they're important because because of what they represent and they represent this earlier time and they're still there's nothing else else like it i've seen state of the art virtual reality simulations and these sorts of things and it doesn't come close. there's no replacement for a real three-dimensional object to look at
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