CSI exhibit at MOS is quite the Experience

by Beacon Staff • October 3, 2007

A car crashes through a living room window, glass, wood and cement are strewn everywhere. Blood stains, are not only on the car, but also the couch and furniture. Beer bottles located in the car and outside as well as a pizza box, still with the pepperoni pizza inside, spilled on the floor. This is the first of three crime scenes that the visitors at the new "CSI: The Experience" exhibit witness upon entering. This new interactive presentation, which is open to the public until Jan. 1, 2008, is at Boston's Museum of Science.

The actual reconstructions of the crime scenes were by far the best part of the exhibit. Visitors become forensic scientists. It is their job to note every single thing that is out of place or seemed suspicious. In the case described above, there was obviously a lot of note-taking to do which shows just how much goes into trying to solve a crime. After visiting the scene, patrons are free to wander from station to station to further collect evidence to help you solve the crime.

Some of these stations took a watered down approach to try and bring across their point. One area allows the temporary scientist to slide across a picture to try and match it up to its counterpart. It proved utterly pointless because without sliding the image, it's possible to pick which matched up to which. This is pretty much a waste of time, but did play to the exhibit's theme of being for all ages.

"I had the opportunity to [tour] the exhibit and I found it fascinating. It is an exhibit that is truly engaging for people of all ages and you really see what it takes to solve the crimes and a little more about flying maggots then I ever wanted to know," said Ioannis Miaoulis, the president and director of the Museum of Science. "The exciting real-world environments and helpful activities allow visitors to become truly immersed in the process of scientific inquiry."

Before being immersed in the crime scenes, a brief video prepares the participants on the experience. The creator of the television show CSI, Anthony E. Zuiker, talks about the show, and a real forensic scientist, Ronald Singer, explains the science outside the showcase. Lastly, Gil Grissom, the fictional supervisor, appears on screen reminding investigators to "keep an open mind" as well as to "remember, the dead can't speak for themselves."

"The science beyond the drama is pretty impressive," says Sergeant Wesley Wanagel of the Crime Scene Services section of the Massachusetts State police. Wanagal says that he has been in the force for over 20 years and was asked to head the crime scene section a few years ago and that now, if he had the choice he would never go back to patrol.

The exhibit encompasses many real machines that professional forensic scientists use.

For example, they have a Gas Chromatographer/Mass Spectrometer, which costs around $750,000, on display. This machine is often called "the heart of the laboratory" as it analyzes body tissues, organs and fluids to identify drug content among other things. The exhibit also have autopsy tables set up with a run down of how the victim died. At first, it's disappointing to see just a flat dead plastic body. However, projectors are used to superimpose the insides of a human being onto the plastic human body to make it look as if it was the actual inside a real human being.

Throughout the tour there are educational posters strewn across the lab and it's nearly impossible to leave without absorbing some information. Beyond that, they have the human touch-Museum of Science employees explain more aspects of how forensic science works. These stations of "experts" are set up around the lab to teach deeper analysis into fingerprints, DNA and forensic anthropology, or the analysis of skeletons.

The last stop of the tour is a meeting via video with supervisor Gil Grissom to see how well the case was solved. Visitors answer a series of questions and then through video feed find out exactly what happened on the night of the crime and discover if the given replies are correct.

As Sergeant Wesley Wanagel said, "many people in real life are fascinated with crime scenes." Most of the people and reporters he's spoken to are most interested in hearing and learning about crime scene investigation in real life. If exploring prosthetic bodies, inauthentic innerds and crimes scenes splattered with fake blood tickles your bones, then this exhibit is definitely worth the experience.

General public adult tickets cost $23, while members of the museum only have to shell out $5. "CSI: The Experience" is open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday through Thursday. On Friday it's open 9 a.m - 9 p.m.