Ideas for Displaying Family Heirlooms

November 13, 2012 — 7 Comments

Do you have a box of family heirlooms?  Unfortunately, heirlooms cannot be enjoyed when hidden away in a box.  Wouldn’t it be nice to put them on display?  They can then be appreciated by everyone in the family.  And the next generation can learn more about their family.  But how can we bring them into our living spaces without making our homes look like a giant garage sale or a bad episode of Hoarders?

I had several meaningful family heirlooms that I wanted to display but I despise clutter.  So I came up with a plan to use them tastefully as decorations.

My mom owned several sets of paper dolls as a child and loved them.  She kept them into her adult years to remind her of her childhood.  On special occasions, my mom would allow my sisters and me to play with her paper dolls.  We knew their emotional worth so we were always careful while playing.  Once my sisters and I were grown and on our own, she decided to pass along her precious collection.  We each took the ones we liked the most.

The last thing I wanted was to hide them in a box in the basement.  The goal was to enjoy them.  The simplicity of their grandparents toys is also a good lesson for my kids who often take their own toys for granted.

Four frames came in handy in the basement as I prepared to display my precious heirlooms.

  • Once the back of the frame was removed, I placed the paper dolls on the glass of the frame.
  • Rather than replacing the back with the same cardboard backing, I replaced it with the glass from another frame.
  • Sandwiched tightly, the dolls have not moved since finishing this project.  The frames will be painted at a later date.My mom also passed down some beloved doll furniture and toys.  I bought a shadowbox and some hook and loop Velcro.
  • I kept the hook and loop parts of the Velcro attached to each other and cut them into pieces to fit each toy.
  • Peeling off the back of one side of the Velcro, I attached the entire piece to each toy.
  • Then I arranged the toys to my liking on the backboard of the shadowbox.
  • After that, I peeled off the remaining tape from the Velcro and attached the toys according to their placement.

Another shadowbox displays a few other items I received from my parents and grandparents.  All items are attached with hook and loop Velcro as described above except the handkerchiefs which are pinned to the back with a few straight pins.  The items included are:

  • My paternal grandma’s glasses.  She always had a chain attached so she wouldn’t lose them.
  • My maternal grandpa’s watch.
  • Two of my great, great, great grandma’s handkerchiefs.
  • My paternal grandpa’s keys.  He had many keys due to his position in the community along with owning his own business.
  • A recipe for Pumpkin Bread written in my paternal grandma’s handwriting.
  • A small new testament filled with notations of my dad’s.

I inherited two of my paternal grandpa’s bibles, the black and brown bibles in the picture.  These are my favorite heirlooms.  Grandpa read his bibles until they fell apart and liked to write in the margins.  I love reading his notations regarding certain verses and speculating what may have gone on his life at the time.

The bibles sit on my dresser along with a few other meaningful items that include:

  • A white bible engraved with my name given to me as a baby.  It was later used at my wedding.
  • One of my great, great, great grandma’s handkerchiefs.
  • A framed letter my sweet daughter wrote for my birthday.
  • The purse I carried to all my proms.
  • My wedding veil.

My husband’s maternal grandpa served as a paratrooper in World War 2.  We were blessed to hear some of his stories before he died.  My husband’s parents and I tracked down replicas of the medals and ribbons he earned and I attached them along with his military picture inside a shadowbox as described above.  This was one of my husband’s favorite Christmas gifts of all time.

Shadowboxes, frames, and creative table displays allow heirlooms to be showcased.  We can honor our older generations while educating the younger generations within our families.  What heirlooms would you like to remove from storage and enjoy in your living space?

©2012 Connie Davis Johnson


7 responses to Ideas for Displaying Family Heirlooms


    Great ideas for displaying your precious heirlooms! They add so much texture to family histories…

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