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This weekend I spent some time going through old scrapbooks and memory boxes. These are not nearly as organized as the names might make them sound. The scrapbook has bits of paper tucked in here and there, things that I need to put together or cut and paste, but I haven’t found the time to do it yet. The memory boxes are simply decorative cardboard boxes that have been filled with random odds and ends, such as that token from the arcade or postcards from trips taken long ago.

Keeping memories is one thing; displaying them is quite another. My usual method of putting it all together is to create a collage, one that fits neatly into a flat frame, and display it until I am ready to create a new one. It’s a great way to keep memories alive and well, but this weekend I realized that my usual way of doing things was getting a little stale.

Then I started thinking about shadow boxes.

Displaying your priceless trinkets

Shadow boxes are an excellent way to keep those things that are too big to fit into a collage, but you still want to display them in some way. Things like that little bird your son carved in Boy Scouts, or the ribbon from your daughter’s hair, or the dried flowers that mark your wedding day — all of those things matter, and shouldn’t be hidden away in a box!

Here are a few good ideas for what to include in your shadow box display:

  • Flowers. Most women want to save their bouquets from the wedding day, that corsage from their big prom night or the flowers that their love brought them on their first date. Sure, you can dry them, but then what? Keep them safe and dust-free in a memorable shadowbox.
  • Collections dedicated to an important day. Speaking of romance, let’s talk about weddings. Most couples have the wedding video or the wedding pictures, but what about the other special things, like the little napkins for the reception and the flowers we’ve already mentioned? Collect them all and organize them in a way that suits your fancy.
  • Clothing. You want to save that baptismal gown, and the little cap the nurse put on your baby’s head the day she was born, and of course that first outfit! What about your wedding veil, or even the tiara from the beauty pageant? Things this special deserve display.
  • Vacation goodies. If you’re anything like me, you collect plenty of little trinkets, postcards, ticket stubs and the like from your vacations to faraway lands. A shadow box of these things can be a great conversation starter.
  • Unique collections. Do you have dozens of small bottles of perfume from exotic places? How about matchbooks from restaurants in foreign locales? Or maybe you have a habit of collecting ceramic turtles? Whatever your collection is, a shadow box keeps it all together.

What you can use as a shadow box

Most shadow boxes are a box or rectangular shape, but it is absolutely acceptable to dive off the beaten path. How about a hat box that has been set on its side? How about turning an old wooden bottle crate on its side, thus creating a dozen different small shadow boxes in one? You could even choose unique boxes in unusual shapes, such as those that depict letters of the alphabet, animals shapes or unusual items (think umbrellas or cars).

Whether displayed on a wall, sitting on a shelf or looking up at you from the coffee table, shadow boxes can hold the things that make you smile. After all, the best of memories don’t deserve to be hidden away in a drawer!

 

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.