Sign In
  • UD Search

News Preserving tiny evidence

Image Picker for Section 0

​Haddon Dine (WUDPAC Class of 2019), left, and Ariel O'Connor, right, an objects conservator for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, are at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner where they are cleaning, stabilizing and preparing the Nutshell crime dioramas for transport to the Smithsonian, where they will be on display this winter. Image: Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun

​​WUDPAC Class of 2019 student Haddon Dine spent her summer as an intern at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in the Objects Lab at the Lunder Conservation Center, working with Objects Conservator Ariel O'Connor. Among her projects, Haddon assisted with the treatment of a series of dollhouse miniatures used to train generations of police detectives in crime scene investigation. From the August 22, 2017 article by Yvonne Wenger for the Baltimore Sun, entitled "Dollhouse death scenes, used as teaching tools in Baltimore, being refurbished for Smithsonian exhibit":


Using a tiny paintbrush, Ariel O’Connor carefully applied a compound to preserve the charred wall of a dollhouse featuring a grisly scene: the skull of a body lying in a bed inside peers out, beseeching the viewer to determine whether this was murder.

The dollhouse is one in a series of model whodunits used to train generations of police detectives in crime scene investigation. It is being cleaned, repaired and stabilized to be showcased at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery beginning in October. It is the first time the collection, built about 70 years ago, will be on public display.

“The location of everything in here is important and could be a clue,” said O’Connor, a Smithsonian conservator who is spending three months at the office of the chief medical examiner in Baltimore working on the tableaus.

The “attention to detail is unbelievable,” she said. “You can see the craftsmanship on such a miniature scale.” . . .

​Ariel O'Connor, an objects conservator for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is seen through the open wall of the "Burned Cabin" Nutshell diorama as she brushes consolidant on one of the sides. Conservators are cleaning, stabilizing and preparing the Nutshell crime dioramas for transport to the Smithsonian, where they will be on display this winter. Image: Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun

In “Barn,” a porcelain doll is displayed with its feet crashed through a wooden crate and hanging from a rope — the barn hoist — with a noose around its neck. The elaborate scene also shows the doll, a man, dressed in a blue shirt, trousers and suspenders. There’s a wooden saw horse and hay stuffed into a loft behind him. The scene is viewed through a pair of open wooden barn doors.

The diorama depicts a fictitious farmer, “Eben Wallace,” found dead on July 15, 1939. His wife, “Imelda Wallace,” told police in an eight-sentence statement that her husband was hard to get along with and would sometimes go to the barn to threaten suicide. He would stand on a bucket with a noose around his neck until she would persuade him to get down. On the day of his death, she had been using the bucket at the pump. Her husband had stood instead on the wooden crate.

Was it murder or suicide?

During a recent visitor to the medical examiner’s office, O’Connor, the Smithsonian conservator, had removed the back of the barn for reconditioning. To figure out what materials the doll is made from and whether it has lead shot in its legs to give it weight, she plans to run the tiny body through an X-ray.

Loose pieces from a wood pile were lined up next to a miniature ax — complete with a rusted blade — and a water pump, all for O’Connor and partner Haddon Dine to work on.


To read the full article and view more images of the dioramas, click here.

News Story Supporting Images and Text
Used in the Home Page News Listing and for the News Rollup Page
WUDPAC Class of 2019 student Haddon Dine spent her summer treating dollhouse miniatures used to train generations of police detectives in crime scene investigation.

​WUDPAC Class of 2019 student Haddon Dine spent her summer treating dollhouse miniatures used to train generations of police detectives in crime scene investigation.

8/29/2017
Page Settings and MetaData:
(Not Shown on the Page)
Page Settings
Preserving tiny evidence
 
No
 
 
MetaData for Search Engine Optimization
Preserving tiny evidence
 
  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489
  • art-conservation@udel.edu