“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?
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.