Oxonian Lee Harper bringing the past to life with History Bones

Published 10:01 am Friday, October 20, 2017

Oxonian Lee Harper’s spooky hobby has turned into an unexpected new profession.

Harper is the creator of History Bones, dioramas she crafts using small model skeletons reenacting historical scenes.

“It started as a smart-alecky, macabre answer to Elf on the Shelf,” Harper explained, referencing the popular Christmas toy. “I thought it would be hilarious to have this skeleton pop up in funny places for my son each day. Over about seven years it’s grown to what it is now. I would take photos and send them to my nieces and nephews. My husband was putting it on his Facebook and people liked it.”

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Many of Harper’s scenes reference less known historical moments, like D.B. Cooper’s mysterious hijacking of an airplane in order to get $200,000 (he was never seen again). There’s also a piece dedicated to Typhoid Mary, the first person in the United States to contract the pathogen that led to typhoid fever. Harper also has more known moments like the Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr duel and Marie Curie in her laboratory.

“I thought it would be a fun way to dabble in this other thing that I like: history,” Harper said. “Somehow, it’s just grown into this crazy profession.”

On Tuesday night, Harper will be having a launch party at The Edison (1415 University Ave.) for her work and a new Instagram page. Harper estimates that she has created around 25 skeletal scenes, not including her earlier work.

Harper purchases the model skeletons and outfits them and their surroundings with repurposed materials. On her website (historybones.com), she writes out the historical backdrop of each scene.

“I write an explanation for them because that’s the whole point: to come up with things that people don’t know about,” she said. “I didn’t know them either, that’s the fun of digging around for them.”

At the moment, Harper’s work can be purchased on her website and she plans to have prints available soon. She can be found on Instagram under the historybones handle.

The History Bones launch party will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 24.