Posted on 06, February, 2020
Last Modified on 25, August, 2023
What is a Shadow Box?
Though not to be confused with the sport of shadow boxing, these collectible display cases still pack a powerful punch! Also known as a glass-enclosed display case, a well-made shadow box makes an excellent home for historic memorabilia, personal awards, art, or sentimental objects. These enclosures are ideal for protecting precious heirlooms or keepsakes from being affected by air, dust, humidity, or damage. Shadow boxes are generally available in two varieties, with or without non-reflective glass, however, either of the two are a surefire way to add a touch of style and elegance to any room's decorum. Traditional varieties are constructed from a square or rectangular wooden frame, which can be arranged in a series or as a standalone fixture. Modern designs typically include MDF bases affixed with an acrylic vitrine ideal for use in high-end galleries or museums.
Where did Shadow Box Frames Come From?
Traditionally, these wall-mounted or mantled display cases were presented to members of the military upon retirement as a medium to house honorable badges, pins, flags, and other rewards for their service to the country. Veterans would be given a shadow box to proudly commemorate their final rank and sacrifice, a totem to be taken home with them to be showcased and protected.
This practice dates back to the early ages where sailors would man wooden ships before the modern era. Somewhat superstitiously, it was believed that when a retired sailor departed his ship for the last time, that it was bad luck for their shadow to touch land before they did. These sailors, not to be outdone by supernatural forces after a long career on their vessel, would place the memorabilia, patches, rank, and keepsakes earned through their service in a shadow box made of fine woods. This case would represent the "shadow" of the sailor and would be kept on-board until they were safely ashore — only being gifted to them in a small ceremony once they touched land. It is needless to say that shadow boxes themselves have a rich and powerful history.
What is a Modern Shadow Box is Used For in the Common Household?
Decorative or functional display cases are popping up more and more in home environments either as a result of a fun DIY project or to showcase those cute little seashells Sally sold you by the seashore – because no bathroom is complete without seashells, am I right? Chances are, you already have something you would be proud to display in one of these open-air or glass enclosed cases, be it a small painting, statue, or heirloom.
A great way to make your shadow box stand out is by being creative! Go ahead and paint it to suit the items on display, grow succulents out of one for a fresh take on living wall art, or press one of your favorite flowers behind the glass panel. Modify your shadow box in any way you see fit to showcase an eye-catching collage of wedding or family photos, maps, or block-letter initials. It's easy to hang one of these display cases with any standard photo frame hook or to position one nicely on a fireplace mantle or entertainment center.
To Build or to Buy - That is the Question
While the web is filled with funky, Pinterest-worthy ideas for how to create your own shadow box from store-bought supplies or simply pieces lying about the house, it is important to know when there you should buy or when you should build your own. If you're looking for a quirky, unpolished, love-it-for-all-its-flaws display case to show off that neat conch shell or pressed sunflower you found last summer than a hand-made design might be a great weekend project. Go ahead, paint, craft, glitter, and build something beautiful with your own hands.
However, to commemorate years of valued military or government service, the promise of lifelong love and marriage, or any other sentimental items it is essential to use a professional grade shadow box. By using a high-quality or museum quality wall mounted display case, users can ensure that their thematic arrangements or personal objects are protected for generations to come, cementing the legacy of those who created it. For a presentation so valuable and close to your heart, it's vital to ensure the best care.
These types of showcases come in a large variety of designs outside of the traditional style including countertop, illuminated, open frame, or versions with clear vitrines. What our extensive selection of shadow boxes have in common is that they protect your precious items from environmental damage while gaining them the attention they deserve. Browse Displays2go's collectible and memorabilia cases to find the perfect way to show off your most prized possessions. For military-focused presentations, check out or selection of memorial flag display cases to pay respect to the veteran in your life.