Arts News: Calling All Sleuths!

“Connecting the Dots” includes this image from Nehemiah Grew’s “The Description and Use of the Pores in the Skin of the Hands and Feet.” In 1684, Grew, an English botanist and physician, was the first Western scientist to describe and illustrate friction ridge skin on fingertips. Nehemiah Grew. “The Description and Use of the Pores in the Skin of the Hands and Feet.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, vol. 14, 1684.

Here’s the scenario: It was Miss Scarlet, with a candlestick in the library. Using these pieces of information — from the board game “Clue” — solve the murder.

Today, analyzing clues to solve such mysteries is scientific in nature, known as Crime Scene Investigation using forensic evidence. The use of CSI is very popular on television shows such as “NCIS,” “Criminal Minds,” “Bones” and “Sherlock,” and movies including “The Bone Collector,” “The Day of the Jackal” and Seven. The use of forensic science — the application of scientific knowledge and methodology to solve crimes — occurs in our everyday lives from finding lost relatives to serving on a jury and understanding the evidence.

The spring exhibition at Kansas City’s Linda Hall Library, “Connecting the Dots: The Science of CSI,” casts a spotlight on forensic science.

“Forensic science takes in a lot of real estate — biology, chemistry and technology — and that’s right in our wheel house,” said Lisa Browar, the library’s president. “We are the perfect venue to bring all of these together and explore forensic science and its application in a comprehensive manner.”

The exhibit includes this image of physicist John Fisher’s helixometer, an instrument he invented to aid forensic firearms technicians. The helixometer utilized a telescope that inserted into a gun barrel to determine whether the weapon had been fired recently, its rifling pattern, and the condition of the barrel. John H. Fisher. “Instrument for Examining the Interior of Gun Barrels.” Patent 1,775,452. 9 September 1930.

The CSI exhibit covers both of the library’s halls.

“In the West Gallery you will learn some of the history of the forensic sciences and the landmark books and materials of this science, including publications and images of things from the 17th century to the present day,” said Eric Ward, the library’s vice president of public programming. The display includes documents on fingerprint identification, firearms, trace evidence and chemistry. Ward and library staff worked on putting the exhibit together for the past year.

In the East Gallery, YOU become the investigator and get a better understanding of how forensic science works, with a staged crime scene.

“It will be an attempted theft and assault with a deadly weapon,” Ward said. “The victim won’t be there but the victim will have been shot during the attempted robbery. There will be blood there. The police will identify two suspects and the visitor will first of all determine what evidence to collect, and then go about trying to solve the crime, choosing which of the two suspects committed it,” Ward said. Visitors will use their mobile phone or tablets at the exhibit.

The idea for the CSI exhibit followed a successful library presentation last year by Jennifer Howard, a forensic scientist in the crime lab with the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. Howard is a consultant on the exhibit.

Browar said this exhibit and a fall show that will look at the science of natural disasters fit nicely with the calling of the 70-year-old library.

“Our mission is to be a venue to enhance the public’s understanding of science and technology,” she said. “We want to create a more welcoming impression and invite people into the library to use the collection and be educated through our programs.”

“Connecting the Dots” opens March 16 at the Linda Hall Library, 5109 Cherry, and continues through Sept. 1. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month. Admission is free, but reservations are requested.

Obtain free e-tickets and details about related events, including a 7 p.m. talk on opening night by Lori Baker, a Baylor University anthropology professor who specializes in molecular and forensic analysis of skeletal remains, at www.lindahall.org

—Ruth Baum Bigus

About The Author: Contributing Writer

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