Media Advisory — Press Preview for Murder is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” and Rick Araluce: The Final Stop”

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Courtney Rothbard
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Press preview for two new exhibitions “Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” and “Rick Araluce: The Final Stop”


Thursday, Oct. 19
10 a.m. to noon
: 10 a.m.
Curator-led tour: 10:30 a.m.


Renwick Gallery, Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W.


Nora Atkinson, Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft

Rick Araluce, Artist

Ariel O'Connor, Objects Conservator

Bruce Goldfarb, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Baltimore


Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” explores the surprising intersection between craft and forensic science. Frances Glessner Lee (1878–1962) crafted her extraordinary “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”—exquisitely detailed miniature crime scenes—to train homicide investigators to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell.” These dollhouse-sized diorama composites of true-crime scenes, created in the first half of the 20th century and still used in forensic training today, were the equivalent of virtual reality in their time and helped to revolutionize the emerging field of forensic science. They also tell a story of how a woman co-opted traditionally feminine crafts to advance a male-dominated field and establish herself as one of its leading voices. In the first public display of all 19 Nutshells, the Renwick Gallery examines Lee’s dioramas as works of art and connects craft with a seemingly unrelated discipline.

Rick Araluce: The Final Stop” transforms a gallery into an abandoned underground subway platform in the artist’s first large-scale installation on the East Coast. Araluce is an artist and scenic designer based in Seattle who creates immersive, hyperreal environments in the form of both and room-sized installations and miniature works, reflecting his intense engagement with materials and process. One of Araluce’s inspirations is miniaturist and criminologist Lee, whose works are on display in the adjoining galleries. This site-specific installation was designed by Araluce for the Renwick Gallery as part of the museum’s ongoing exploration of large-scale contemporary works in its historic gallery spaces.


Interested media should RSVP to Photographers and film crews should contact the office in advance to make arrangements. For one-on-one interviews, contact Courtney Rothbard by email


Information about the exhibition is available in online press kits in the museum’s press room.


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About the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the home to one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. Its artworks reveal America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. The museum’s main building is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Its Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft and decorative arts, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. The Renwick is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website:

Press Images

  • Press - Murder is Her Hobby Nutshell Studies

    Press - Murder is Her Hobby Nutshell Studies

    Frances Glessner Lee, Red Bedroom, about 1944-48. Collection of the Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, courtesy of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Baltimore, MD