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Nutshell Study

Published onFeb 07, 2023
Nutshell Study


Frances Glessner Lee is known for her work, the “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death.” This series contains “nineteen intricately designed dollhouse-style dioramas” (Wikipedia, 2023).

The dioramas are detailed representations of death scenes that are composites of actual court cases, created by Glessner Lee on a 1-inch to 1 foot (1:12) scale.[5][3][4] Originally twenty in number,[6] each model cost about US$3,000–4,500 to create.[7] She attended autopsies to ensure accuracy,[5] and her attention to detail extended to having a wall calendar include the pages after the month of the incident, constructing openable windows, and wearing out-of-date clothing to obtain realistically worn fabric.[3] The dioramas show tawdry and, in many cases, disheveled living spaces very different from Glessner Lee's own background.[8] The dead include sex workers and victims of domestic violence.[3][9][10]

The purpose of the Nutshell Studies was to help law enforcement learn how to investigate crime scenes.


You will create a Nutshell Study Diorama constructed in the same vein as those of Frances Glessner Lee. The diorama will be based on a death scene sketch you construct with your assigned group. I will assign groups of 3-4 students. The diorama should appear to be a realistic depiction of a death scene, specifically, a homicide.

Death Scene Narrative and Sketch

The first step in constructing your Nutshell Study Diorama is to come up with a death scene and associated narrative. For the death scene, you will first sketch it by hand. The associated narrative accompanies the death scene and should be brief (see the PDF below for examples). Information required for the associated narrative includes: victim(s); when the death was reported; who was questioned; and brief statements from those who were questioned. Keep in mind, the goal is not for the death to be solved, but rather to teach observers how to look for clues.

Nutshell Narrative Examples

Smartdraw Sketch

After creating a hand-drawn death scene and associated narrative, you will use the online, free program, Smartdraw, to virtually sketch the death scene which you will later produce for your Nutshell Study. Note, Smartdraw is only free for 7 days. Thus, before you begin sketching in Smartdraw, I suggest you draw on paper. Then, you can work on the actual virtual sketch within the free trial window.



Due Date

Death Scene Narrative and Hand-drawn Sketch

February 16

Smartdraw Sketch

February 23

Nutshell Study Diorama

April 20


Due dates for the various components of the Nutshell Study appear directly above. You will be given time in class to work on generating ideas and creating the sketches with your groupmates. However, you may have to spend some time outside the classroom completing this assignment. Once your sketch is approved by me, you may begin working on the 3D model of your Nutshell Study.

The Death Scene Narrative and Hand-drawn Sketch as well as Smartdraw Sketch should be submitted to the associated folders in D2L in the Nutshell Study folder.

Grading: Your group death scene narrative, hand-drawn sketch, and Smartdraw sketch will be assessed using the rubric below. This counts for 30% of the total Nutshell Study grade.  


Yes (=5 points)

No (=0 points)

Create death sketch using Smartdraw



Death sketch depicts a death



Death sketch is detailed



Death sketch is visually appealing



Death sketch has accompanying narrative



Accompanying narrative includes all the required components (victim(s); when the death was reported; who was questioned; and brief statements from those who were questioned)



Nutshell Study Groups


Team Members


Britney Villalpando

Leonard Ekure

D’Ajah Owens


Miazhee Samuels

Sha’kara Braxton

Demetria Jordan


Jaidah Millington

Mandy Akyea-Mensah

Deshaun Gresham


Samuel Taylor

Temica Cunningham

Amli Banks


Sharday Tigner

Francisco Garcia

Alexus Holloway


Dionna Wilburn

Sakhi Davis

Alicia Harris

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