Museums & Exhibits

Published: Friday, October 07, 2011

By FRANK OTTO
Times Correspondent

 

A young waitress lies on her back, legs twisted in a macabre way beneath her near an alley’s dumpster. Beside her unnaturally grey body is a torn headshot of the woman’s once lively and pretty face.

Her purse is on its side about a yard away, its contents spilled out onto the alley’s asphalt. Makeup, tissues and a cell phone all sit in a jumbled mess.

So stands one of three constructed crime scenes for the Franklin Institute’s new, heavily interactive exhibition, “CSI: The Experience.”

Running through Jan. 2, the exhibit ties heavily into CBS’ hit crime series, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” At the exhibit’s mouth, the replica house props from one of the show’s main storylines during its seventh season, The Miniature Killer, line a railing.

Moving from there, visitors are treated to an introduction video featuring the show’s cast and actual forensic investigators and scientists explaining the exhibit. Afterward, throughout the exhibit, LCD displays feature a mix of cast members, episode clips, and authentic CSI figures explaining different aspects of forensic crime solving.

Visitors are encouraged to take “case files” at the exhibit’s entrance, enter the three black, wooden enclosures containing the constructed crime scenes, take notes, and then attempt to solve each homicide case using techniques that real crime scene investigators use every day.

“This appeals to a lot of people. It appeals to anyone who’s ever wanted to be a detective,” said Dr. Steve Snyder, the Franklin Institute’s vice president of exhibit and program development. “I guess it just is for people that like answering questions.”

The three crime scenes featured include the dead waitress in the alley, a skeleton discovered in a desert, and a living room that a car barreled through.

After a walkthrough of the crime scenes, a doorway leads into a “criminalities lab” where the prospective crime-solvers begin to sort through the clues from the black boxes.

The first lab contains segments that utilize microscopes to allow guests to check samples of evidence taken from the crime scenes, a station where people can scan the contents of a car’s trunk with a black-light for trace evidence, and a wall display set up to compare tire tread-patterns for proper identification.

The second lab contains a ballistics area to show how bullets found at crime scenes are investigated. Visitors also conduct mock chemical tests on a powder found at one of the scenes to learn how investigators handle chemicals and even drugs found at crime scenes.

For fans of the show, an enclosed, full-sized replica of the lead character Gil Grissom’s office is constructed at the back of the second lab.

The last area useful to solving the cases is a fake autopsy room. Two white manikins and a skeleton lie on tables in separate areas before a video screen where the show’s medical examiner, Dr. Al Robbins, explains the process of performing autopsies on each victim. As he presents his findings, a projection of what Robbins is talking about is shown on the manikin and changes with what he says. When he explains removing a corpse’s stomach, the stomach disappears from the projection.

Finally, guests take their findings to a bank of computers at the back of the lab and answer multiple choice questions issued by Grissom to determine whether their finding and conclusions on each case were correct.

“CSI: The Experience” originated in Fort Worth, Texas and moves to museums throughout the country. Presented at the Franklin by PECO, the completely immersive exhibit invites visitors to step into the world of cutting-edge forensic science and employ actual investigative techniques.

“It’s a traveling exhibit that we will provide programming for,” said Snyder.

Each day, before or after moving through the displays, live programs teach guests more about fingerprints, footprints and splatter patterns. Fingerprint cards can be made and brought home with anyone that wants them.

Snyder expressed excitement at the variety of exhibits the Franklin Institute has now on hand with the arrival of “CSI: The Experience.”

“The mummies exhibit is very artifact-based. This is forensic science,” he said. “It’s nice to have both here right now. These exhibits provide a variety.

CSI: The Experience was designed and developed for the Science Museum Exhibit Collaborative (SMEC) by the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, CBS Consumer Products and the National Science Foundation.

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