When most people think of dollhouse miniatures, forensics or crime scene investigations are usually the last thing to come to mind.
An interesting and fascinating use of dollhouse miniatures is the creation of dioramas or mini-vignettes representing the details found at a real scene of a crime. The crafter of these tiny crime scenes uses a dollhouse or room box and includes all of the lifelike detail of the life-size scene including furniture, body, weapon and even footprints. No detail is too small and each scene must include important components such as working lights and doors and windows that actually open. The seemingly most inconsequential details must be captured if the dollhouse crime scene is to be effective. These 3-D dollhouse crime scenes aid detectives in studying real clues that should be sought when investigating a real crime scene. They are also used as an important tool in training students and investigators who are interested in entering the fascinating field of forensics.
Thomas Mauriello, Professor of Criminology at the University of Maryland believes that in a world of computer-aided crime scene analysis, there is no substitute for hands-on experience – even if the hands are on a tiny doll representing the corpse of a victim. Mauriello has created 6 tiny crime-scene room boxes or dioramas which include important clues to the cause of death – be it accident, suicide or homicide. Conjuring images up from the scene of a horror flick, Mauriello’s miniature crime scenes include blood-stained walls and tiny death bed figures, many of which can be found lying face down in the garage or face up on the kitchen linoleum floor.
Mauriello reminds his students that the ability to examine the details of a crime scene in miniature form is essential – they cannot do that at a real crime scene as it’s impossible. It’s closed off so they cannot violate the integrity of the crime scene. Mauriello used to re-create his crime scenes by taking over a university house and turning it into a life-size crime scene. A huge undertaking, this would often take him days to prepare. Mauriello prefers the dollhouse miniature dioramas as they take much less time to prepare and are easily portable.
The originator of the dollhouse crime scene investigations was Frances Glessner Lee, an eccentric millionaires in the 1940’s and 1950’s who founded Harvard’s department of legal medicine. Lee spent as much as $3000 per miniature dollhouse crime scene diorama – close to the cost of a real house at that time. Lee was a perfectionist when it came to her dollhouse scenes. Bullets and shotgun shells were perfectly miniaturized and her miniature victims wore clothing carefully knitted by Lee herself. Lee became the honorary captain of the New Hampshire state police force and used her dollhouse crime scene dioramas mimicking real crime scenes to challenge the boys in her unit.
For more great information on this topic, we recommend reading The Dollhouse Murders by Thomas Mauriello.