Crafting Memories with Shadow Boxes

The Shadow Box I Made for My MomI inherited my grandmother’s house many years ago. I still have not went through everything that came with the house. Boxes remain that have not been sorted and organized. My grandmother was a pack rat but the awesome thing is that she left behind memories of her life like pieces to a puzzle for me to put together.

I have found newspapers and photographs from the 1800s, old magazines, some cool handbags and hats and tons of letters, cards, and little mementos of a long life.

I found love letters written between my grandparents in the 1930s when they were “courting”. I read some of them but there are so many and they are so personal, perhaps some day I will go back and read them all. I packed them all, tied them with a ribbon and created a beautiful treasure box to put them in, then gave them to my mother for Christmas. She was amazed and very touched.

After that I wondered what to do with other family treasures that I uncovered, like Valentine cards to my mom when she was little, cards that she gave to my grandmother, photos, broken bits of jewelry, old watches, spectacles, and even a baby bonnet and baby gown that was my mother’s (she was born in the 1930s by the way).

I decided to make a memory collage in a shadow box with a few things that I found. There was so much that I had to sort through it all and choose a theme. I picked the simplest choice, Mom.

I found a great photo of my mom and grandmother, an old card my mom had given to my grandmother, some handmade lace and a doily that my grandmother made, an old watch, a cameo and a few tins and some beads and even my mother’s own baby bonnet. Then I put everything together in a way that was simple yet visually appealing. I gave it to my mom and she loves it, of course. It now hangs on her wall where everyone can see it.

Now I still have one shadowbox left since they came in a pack of two. I think my next theme will be a “remember when” or “this is your life” kind of deal because I have cards, letters, drawings even old school stuff of mom’s when she was little. If I can get it arranged to look good I think it would be a great companion memory box to the first one I made.

I’m also working on a vintage firefighter theme box for my husband that combines all his mini firefighter collectibles, like his old fireman badges and pins. He’s going to love it when I’m done. (If I ever get it done, I need more vintage firefighter memorabilia small enough to fit).

I like this concept of putting memories together in a shadow box because it gives you a way to create something beautiful out of pieces from the past, little things that normally just get stuffed in a box and pulled out maybe once every decade or so, and turned into a type of art. Something to display that connects you concretely to your history everyday.

And you can do it with anything, any theme. I love creating Shadow Memory Boxes more than scrap-booking because I can work with larger treasures, trinkets and memories that currently are wasting away unappreciated in boxes and trunks. This is a great way to “remember when” while crafting.

Written by Wenona Napolitano

Wenona is married with three crazy kids that range in age from 4 to 18. She is a freelance writer, poet and the author of The Everything Green Wedding Book.

She enjoys reading, writing, crafting and gardening. She tries to do all of these as "greenly" as possible.

Her writing has appeared in several local and regional publications, Pack O Fun, Today's Creative Home Arts, and Indiana Living Green magazines as well as numerous online sites including,,, eHow, Associated Content, Suite101 and


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  1. I am envious! You are so lucky to have all those tangible memories at your fingertips 🙂 My grandparents are overseas so I never had anything of theirs. When my mother passed away I kept a few things that I absolutely cherish.

    I had a friend I worked with many years ago that made shadowboxes from her kid’s baby momentos. I plan to do that when my kids are each 25 (the oldest is 17) and give them to them as presents. I love your shadowbox 🙂 I work on a blog called Old Fashioned Tips and the site that it belongs to, Old Fashioned Living, and was just cleaning up an article on preserving old photographs. I think I will link to this blog post as a resource, great post!

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