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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

TV becomes reality

CSI exhibit opens at Museum of Science

Published: November 30, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

I seem to have become The Hoot’s Museum of Science girl. Last year, I wrote about the controversial exhibit, Body Worlds II, which involved plastinated bodies in elaborate poses. Why not write about crime this year?

Those of you who know me know that I love CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. That’s why I was thrilled to find out that the Museum of Science in Boston would be getting the incredible new exhibit, “CSI: The Experience” in September. Naturally, I wanted to see it.

A few days ago, I got my chance. It was everything that I had hoped it would be. The exhibit allows visitors to step inside the shoes of a CSI and walk around in them for a bit. As a CSI, you can solve one of three cases, run tests, and talk to Gil Grissom, the shift supervisor. It’s quite a trip. However, like Body Worlds, it’s not really suitable for children as there are some pretty graphic life-size crime scenes.

My CSI experience actually began before the exhibit. It started with the mini exhibit of the “Miniature Killer’s” scale models. For those who don’t watch the show, the Miniature Killer was a major storyline in season seven involving a serial killer who left miniatures of the murder at the crime scenes, taunting the CSIs. Each of the miniatures that had been built for the show were on display there. It was very interesting to be able to walk up to the props and see them in minute detail.

Following the miniature exhibit, my mother and I continued on to the main exhibit. After our photos were taken in the autopsy room, we were given our case files for case #2 and shown into a room with a television. There, Anthony Zuiker, the creator of CSI, and William Petersen, who plays Gil Grissom, briefed the audience via video on what they would see in the exhibit.

After the video, we were directed to our crime scene (which is determined randomly by the case file, so keep in mind that all the details are specific to crime scene #2). We walked through the door and found ourselves face to face with a dead body lying in an alley. Her name was Penny Golden, a struggling actress who had apparently been run over. Using the case file, we looked for evidence at the scene and then walked through another door to Lab #1.

In the first lab, we learned how real CSIs process digital evidence (like cell phones), fingerprints, and how they can match tire treads to different vehicles. It was extremely hands-on and in order to follow the case, you had to “process” the evidence yourself via computers and sample matching.

After we had worked with all the virtual evidence we were given in Lab #1, we walked into Lab #2 and autopsy. In the second lab, we “tested” powder to see what type of drug it was, learned about forensic entomology (the study of insects and how they affect decomposition), and forensic biology (DNA) as our victim was not using her real name when she was found. In general, it is basic and extremely oversimplified so anyone can have fun doing it, but it is very entertaining as well.

In the autopsy section, a video of Robert David Hall (Dr. Al Robbins) talks you through his findings at the post. The actual autopsy is shown on a blank, white body in front of you with projections showing the injuries which were found. It’s a neat, non-graphic way of presenting what is actually pretty gruesome and morbid.

When you have gone over all of your notes and taken a second look at anything which you might have missed before, it is time to head over to the case report computers to show Grissom what you discovered while working the case. After we answered several questions, we saw a cutscene showing what had happened to our victim. Then Grissom gave us our evaluation. As a CSI enthusiast, I’m pleased to say we solved the crime without difficulty. I hope to return at least one more time before the exhibit leaves Boston to do the other crime scenes.

“CSI: The Experience” was highly informative, entertaining, and interactive. The interviews with real forensic scientists and the actors on the show, which were shown on televisions at each station, were very interesting and showed the contrast between entertainment and what is done every day.

This exhibit is at the Museum of Science in Boston until January 1, 2008. Tickets are $23 for non-members and $5 for members of the museum. Admission to the rest of the museum is included. The entire exhibit takes about one hour to go through, with a special CSI-themed gift shop at the end.