Make a Keepsake Shadow Box

Follow a few easy guidelines to make a keepsake shadow box that provides a lasting display for your memories. Shadow boxes provide a more interesting alternative to simply placing memorabilia on the shelf or worse, in a drawer or box unseen. They also provide a way to share your keepsakes with family and friends in an attractive, permanent manner.

Decide on a theme for your keepsake shadow box. Theme determines the items that you will place in the shadow box and this helps you to know what size frame to acquire. Some popular themes for keepsake shadow boxes include wedding, graduation, sports, music, cheer, dance, baby, family heritage or remembrance, pet remembrance, military or hobby. Make a list of the items you wish to place in the frame and estimate the size frame that you need. Remember that including an entire wedding dress or military uniform requires a very large and expensive frame.

Acquire the shadow box frame in which to create your display. Keep in mind your size estimate from Step 1. Standard shadow box frames are available in the same sizes as picture frames in varying depths (2 to 4 inches). Specialised frames come in sizes up to 32 x 40 x7 inches and larger. Purchase a shadow box frame at discount, frame or hobby stores. Alternatively, create a shadow box frame from a sturdy, regular frame behind that you attach a wood box of the depth you need using small screws and hinges. Create an alternative to traditional shadow boxes by using a cube or box wall shelf and attaching a backing of cardboard or wood to this. This shadow box alternative usually remains open and glassless, unless you wish to go to the expense of having custom glass made for it.

Decide on the background for your keepsake shadow box, keeping in mind the theme. Background materials may include scrapbook paper, fabric or other decorative papers. Attach one or a combination of these materials to the inside back of the shadowbox using hot glue, craft glue or scrapbook adhesives. Add scrapbook embellishments that coordinate with your theme as well.

Arrange the keepsake memorabilia attractively in the frame. Do not attach anything until you decide on your final arrangement for the objects. Remember to layer some items for a pleasing visual effect. Attach some items such as postcards, matchbooks, ticket stubs, programs and other flat keepsakes directly to the background paper. Other more dimensional objects may need specialised attachments such as hung from the top of the shadow box frame by small hooks and monofilament, glued to the bottom inside edge of the shadow box frame or glued to the side of the frame. For larger objects, such as uniform shirts or wedding veils, attach using a combination of these.

Before attaching the glass to your keepsake shadow box, give the shadow box a slight tap or shake, allowing you to see any loose items. Reattach any loose items. Wipe the glass clean of prints and dust with a lint-free cloth before closing or attaching the front glass. Remember to hang the shadow box frame more securely than a normal frame because of its added weight. Sitting the shadow box on a shelf or table provides a display alternative.

Things You'll Need

  • Shadow box frame
  • Background paper or material
  • Adhesives
  • Keepsake objects
  • Embellishment objects
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About the Author

Elizabeth Stover, an 18 year veteran teacher and author, has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Maryland with a minor in sociology/writing. Stover earned a masters degree in education curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas, Arlington and continues to work on a masters in Educational Leadership from University of North Texas. Stover was published by Creative Teaching Press with the books "Science Tub Topics" and "Math Tub Topics."