The importance of historical context in an investigative story

“Emergence.” Molly, Act 1, Chapter 3: The Birth, 1924, Ireland.



What happens when a case is very old, when much of its physical evidence is deteriorated or destroyed, and its main players long deceased?  How do we investigate?

For me it is all about the historical context.

I interviewed Dr. David Sweet, forensic odontologist, on the importance of historical context in solving the 1953 Stanley Park cold case in 2004 (when I volunteered on the Babes in the Wood Task Force):

The experts [for example, forensic anthropologists and entomologists] that you mention would focus on human remains and I think we’ve pretty well exhausted all the different things related to the actual bones and the skeletons.  But there are many other forensic scientists that look at different kinds of physical evidence and I’m not sure that they’ve had an opportunity to look at these exhibits that remain.  My concern is that the public perception of forensic science today is that we can do a lot more that we actually can.  So when you consider the age of the exhibits, there probably isn’t much left.  Now, you should never say never, and I agree it would be beneficial [for a group of forensic scientists to have a look at the existing evidence].  But it’s really hard to predict what would come out of it.  I think really our attention should be focused on the historical aspects and trying to identify an individual or more than one individual who sort of fit the profile and the circumstances of the disappearance.  I think that is really where our hope lies now because the physical evidence deteriorates over a period of time and even with our modern technology we can’t bring it back. – Dr. David Sweet

When I work on Molly, I like to surround myself with objects and curios from the era (in my 1929 apartment close to the park).  This allows me to immerse myself in the time, in the circumstance of the case.  It is a means of stepping into the scene.  Working my way outward.  The objects are the context from which I draw clues.  As I put together the massive amounts of research into a cohesive presentation, these objects of the past keep me inspired, focused, on track.


Speaking of history, make sure to check out:

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And I am SO EXCITED for:


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