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Using a Shadowbox to Display Memories

shadow box with old trucks

We all have mementos and keepsakes tucked away, discovered every now and then but mostly forgotten. These may be souvenirs from a trip or first date, sentimental items from childhood and long-lost relatives. Often, people will tell me these items are much too important to throw away, but they have no idea what to actually do with them. I say, if these are happy memories, then show them off! A shadowbox is a perfect way to showcase your memories or collections in a neat little cubicle.

What is a shadowbox?

A shadowbox is a deep picture frame or a box, typically with a glass-front, that can be used to display small objects of artistic or personal significance. Shadowbox frames come in many sizes, depths and colors. You can find then in any style from vintage to modern. Some boxes have no glass in front and may even have small shelves inside them. There is something to fit any taste.

A small grouping of objects can easily illustrate your story. And when it’s done right, a single object can create a dramatic visual result. Decide what feeling and message you want to convey with your box, and then get creative. These little boxes can elevate an everyday object into art. There aren’t many rules; almost anything goes.

What goes in a shadowbox?

Anything you wish! It’s like a 3-D scrapbook. You could showcase antique jewelry or a collection of love letters. This is one project that you don’t need to start by going shopping. Instead gather all those “memory items” stored around the house. See if some of them fit a theme such as favorite vacations or family history. You can create one for each family member or create a box as memorial for a loved one.

scribbled notes

seashells, rocks

military medals

trophies, awards

report cards


postcards, maps

movie, concert tickets

baseball cards

doll clothes

stuffed animals

kids’ toys

articles of clothing

baby items

How will you assemble your shadowbox?

You can find shadowboxes where you buy frames. Picking the frame color and background material can make all the difference in showcasing your treasures. If you’re artistic, this is a wonderful opportunity to tap into your creative side. Experiment with different backgrounds and frames that work with the items you are showcasing. Take some time to play around with different arrangements. When your ready, carefully pin the items in place; hot glue or double-sided tape work, too.

If this feels slightly above your skill level, it’s easy to find an expert to help. All the shadowboxes in this post are from the Frame Center in Hanover. Their creativity and exceptional quality make them my go-to framers for any project. In fact, I have used them for over twenty years, and regularly recommend them to everyone.

To hang or not to hang?

Shadowboxes, alone or as a grouping, can make a stunning display on the wall. But don’t limit yourself to just walls. They can also be placed on a mantel or on a shelf in a bookcase. Some shadowboxes are made to lay fit and be viewed from above, perfect for a coffee table. Just be sure to place your new work of art where you can enjoy it often.

I hope you found some inspiration to clean out your drawers and closets. There’s lots of good stuff in there!

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