I quote the Mighty and All Powerfully Omnipotent Wikipedia:
A shadow box is an enclosed glass-front case containing an object or objects presented in a thematic grouping with artistic or personal significance. The grouping of the objects and the depth effect created by their relative heights from the backing creates a dramatic visual result.
For instance, stuff like this:
Enter Jospeh Cornell who made an artform out of creating shadow boxes.
Cornell (1903-1972) was a bit of a recluse, shy and lived almost his entire life in a small wooden frame house on the Utopia Parkway in Flushing, Queens with his mother and caring for his brother who had cerebral palsy. He was not very good with women and never had much in the way of romantic relationships. He preferred talking with women over men, though, and often made their husbands wait in the next room when he discussed business with them. Later in life he had numerous friendships with ballerinas, who found him unique, but too eccentric to be a romantic partner.
He had a string of crappy jobs most of this life and it wasn’t until he was 46 in 1949 that he had a showing in a gallery of his boxes which resulted in some of them being bought.
Interestingly, after this he became somewhat renowned.
His boxes always featured found objects and he was particularly fond of Victorian odds and ends. His style is combination of Constructivism meets Surrealism. Constructivism is a kind of industrial, angular presentation (the material properties of an object + its spacial presence) which became enormously influencial on Bauhaus architecture. Surrealism is… oh come on you don’t really need to explain surrealism. Giraffe. Burlap. Fortnight.
So that’s all you need to know i think. He became interested in film would do the same thing in film he did in his boxes. He would make montages of found footage and that would be his experimental film.
His very last exhibit was a showing of his boxes specifically for children. All the boxes were placed at an ideal childrens’ viewing height and cake and soft drinks were served.