Forensic Science on Trial

June 2024 – June 2025
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Arsenic poisoning tests used by George Frederick Barker on the internal organs of family members of Lydia Sherman, who was convicted of murder in 1872 and was believed to have poisoned three husbands and eight children. Image courtesy of the National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History
1300 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC

2nd Floor, East Wing, Albert H. Small Documents Gallery

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Guilty or not guilty? When science enters the courtroom, it brings with it the people and the history that have shaped it. This exhibition explores historic cases and how people influence the way forensic science is used in the pursuit of justice. The artifacts span more than 150 years of trials, represent at least twelve different techniques, and include items from three different “trials of the century.” See arsenic tests from the 1872 trial of Lydia Sherman, who was suspected of poisoning three of her husbands and eight children in her care, the first polygraph used for lie detection, and a modern apparatus for testing bitemarks on cadavers.