Building a shadow box can be a personally rewarding hobby while adding a point of interest to your home. You may decide to shadow box special items, such as images, newsclippings or meaningful objects. Just about anything can be preserved to stand the test of time. Some shadow boxes have an open face, while others are sealed behind glass. You will want to make sure that objects are mounted securely and that the box does not contain acidic paper, fabric or wood.
When making a shadow box, carefully consider the type of material you are preserving. Anything that is made of fabric or paper will deteriorate over time, simply from being exposed to air and sunlight. Oils from your fingers and acids inherent in the mounting material are also of concern. In essence you are preserving an object that holds special significance and you will want to house it in such a way that preserves its original form as long as possible.
1. Acidic Materials will Cause Discoloration
When choosing wood for your shadow box, avoid woods and other building materials that have been treated with chemicals. Most shadow box constructions are not designed using treated wood to avoid this issue. To create a "wallpaper" in the box, line the back wall with fabric to create depth and accentuate the objects mounted inside. Paper and cloth that are not acid free will discolor and deteriorate over time from exposure to sunlight. Acids speed up the process of it deterioration at the molecular level, and the residue will contaminate the objects you are mounting.
2. Acidic Materials will Speed Deterioration
There are acid free linings, glues and other adhesives that you can use to mount your object into your shadow box, which you can find at most local art stores in the framing section, or at scrap booking stores. Scrapbook hobbyists also use the acid free materials for the same reasons, to preserve the life of the work and to slow deterioration of the finished product. Use acid free paper and fabric liners to avoid this, and also ensure that the wood base of your shadow box is not made from treated wood or other material. The chemicals in treated wood is actually even worse to your mounted object, as most treated woods are also very acidic, which will cause the same problems.
3. Acidic Materials can Effect your Preserved Objects
Using acid free materials in your shadow box will ensure the longest life for your finished piece as it creates a sterile environment for the objects you are displaying. Avoid displaying the box in full sunlight to avoid its negative effects on your mounted material. If the shadow box is clear of acids and chemicals, the box and its contents will be preserved for many years after you hammer the last nail.