In Brief: Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

Since¬†interest in the Nutshells has continued to grow, I thought I’d do a brief roundup of my contribution to recent web articles and blog posts (includes photos I’ve shared and links):

Wellcome Collection Blog: “Finding the Truth in a Nutshell,” by Erin N. Bush

Fangirl Nation: Mistress of Death Interview with Erin N. Bush

Mental Floss: “The Nutshell Studies: How a Wealthy Grandmother Revolutionized Crime Scene Investigation

Stuff You Missed in History Blog: Frances Glessner Lee

Fat Pencil Studios: Dollhouse Murders


From The Secretary’s Handbook, 1965

I was cleaning out my home office and I found my grandmother’s Secretary’s Handbook from the 1960s. While I am studying gender and crime in the late 19th century, I tend to always have a soft spot for popular culture and historic text books and how-tos. I wrote my Master’s thesis on how cookbooks conveyed gender norms through the chaos of the Great Depression and World War II and I find that these texts are usually a treasure-trove of gender (and normally historically misogynistic) brainwashing.1

This is a test of a pull quote; it is only a test and has nothing to do with this article.

While it’s not my era at all, with the recent popularity of Mad Men, I thought I’d share the Eighteen Rules for the Efficient Secretary so you can see for yourself.

Often these texts illuminate these things more clearly than any historian could.

  1. She is prompt in all her appointments. She gets to work early and sees that his desk is neatly arranged, all his pencils sharpened and all his pens in good working condition.
  2. She dresses conservatively and uses makeup sparingly; she does not wear conspicuous jewelry or noticeable perfume in the office.
  3. She maintains good posture at her work, in order to avoid fatigue and to present a posed appearance to others.
  4. She plans her work well, so as to avoid hurry and flurry.
  5. She is courteous and tactful to all callers, even those that are unwelcome.
  6. She cultivates a pleasing manner and voice and pays attention to her diction.
  7. She is not abrupt over the telephone nor does she drag out telephone conversations.
  8. She does not make personal telephone calls.
  9. She keeps a dictionary, a book of grammar and usage and a word divider on her desk.
  10. She keeps her office supplies handy and ready for use. She does not take pencils or erasers home for her children to use.
  11. She keeps her desk tidy. All personal items are kept private.
  12. She keeps her typewriter clean and in good working condition. She changes the ribbon promptly when necessary and covers her typewriter when not in use.
  13. She organizes her files methodically, and does her filing carefully.
  14. She does not turn in a letter that is less than letter perfect.
  15. She does not smudge her carbon copies.
  16. She does not gossip.
  17. She does not bring personal affairs to the office.
  18. She does not watch the clock. She will inquire if there is any little thing she can do, before saying good-bye for the day.

Death in Diorama

The draft of my site is up.

I’ve been poking around the blogs today and I’m really looking forward to the presentations tomorrow.

Thank you to those who have continuously commented here and have given feedback over the course of the semester. Your talents, insight and opinions have been most helpful. Have a great summer everyone!

Go Ask Alice

If the soundtrack to Zayna’s road to her final project draft presentation included “Truckin’,” my theme this week was “White Rabbit.” After two evenings of chasing unfortunate rabbits to a dead end, I’m working my way to something that is really do-able.

Nothing really major has changed from my design presentation except that I have a new pure CSS rollover navigation, which helped me to better architect my site from a page perspective. I was able to stick to the minimum number of elements in the primary navigation and then all the sub-pages in the secondary. The result is that I have a navigation item for every page on the site, which was really important to me.

To address redundancy and consistency I created entry pages for each section of the site (just 2) and then mirrored that on the home page. I built the site in anticipation of people entering through search, so I wanted to make sure that no matter how you enter, you know what you’re getting. (A pipe dream, maybe, but I have to address the search aspect since I ran my targeted keywords through Google’s search tools and found that over several thousand searches occur each month on my major keywords.)

I also added some slight design elements to try to clarify the cohesion between the soft handwriting and the masculine typewriter font. I did address the concern that there was too much red on the site and now reserve the red purely for navigation and some style things. Also, sadly, the blood, much as I love it, was a little too much once I put all the content in, so it got the boot.

As part of my trip down the rabbit hole, I had a bit of fun playing with an alternate design, which I scrapped. I wanted to share since I worked hard on it. This is a screenshot.

Finishing up some final things and will post a link once it’s up.