Construction Moves Forward

Why, you may ask, is there a need for scale models of horrific things? To understand. To learn. This model has a specific home it will be going to: the Criminal Justice Department at Northern Michigan University.

There are tools uncountable in the digital age to save and present images. If you have the means, you can secure a laser plotter, put it in a room and scan the room, saving it for future use. Even with the best display, the most power processors, you’re still going to be seeing a flat image. You can take thousands of photos of a room and still be unable to duplicate the experience of being in the room. There is a nothing that can compare with actually being in the room. The way the shadows fall throughout the room change as you interrupt beams from windows or lamps. Different things in the room become more or less apparent depending on how your stereo vision processes the scene. A flat image will never be able to account for the minutiae of the third dimension. The difference is between watching a film of an event or living it. And the most important feature: the experience of the viewer comes into play.

This model is a Nutshell. Google it. Frances Glessner Lee was the originator of the technology. The Nutshell is a crime scene, built for the use of the forensic investigator, used to train eyes to see things. The collection of Nutshells she built throughout her life are mostly in the possession of the State of Maryland. They are used almost exclusively for the training of law enforcement professionals in the science of crime scene observation. (Almost because the collection made a trip to the Smithsonian recently, being acknowledged for the art they, in themselves, are. Their visit lasted a scant two months.)

Mrs. Lee’s Nutshells were built over the course of her life with the input from police agencies and investigators. They knew the crimes and the things to be looking for. She built the Nutshells using details they had gleaned from long careers looking over corpses and prodding scenes to give up the details of the events that had occurred. She incorporated their lessons into the teaching tools she created.

Mrs. Lee passed away in 1962. Since her passing, the collection of Nutshells has gotten older, but are still in use. No new tableaus have been created to add to her cannon of forensic instruction.

I’m certainly not in the league of Mrs. Lee. Stories are told of her knitting socks for victims with straight pins to ensure the utmost authenticity. She had skills I’ll never be able to develop. But I have the internet. With that I can find a thousand miniaturists with skills I’ve never even considered! Stores exist that would have saved her countless hours. And, truth be told, I can’t imagine her rebuilding a living room from 1970. The furniture is horrendous.

kitchen floor

The kitchen floor went in smoothly. Walls are primed! Next up in here are the cabinets and the appliances!

rear bedroom

From the side looking in to the rear bedroom, you can see perspective being achieved. Still a corner to see to: that gap is less than 1/32″ and very clearly visible.

front bedroom

The front bedroom. Hardwood floors, trim, doors…the to-do list is long.

bedroom door detail

There is a seam in the birch ply on the left side of the door. Drywall compound and sand paper. Basically, I had to tape the seams the same as you would do in a full-size house. Still some knife work in the corners for glue gobs. And vacuuming. Have you ever had a contractor in your house and fretted about the mess they make? Same thing here. The contractor is a slob! I need someone 5″ tall to help with the painting.

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