The Museum of Broken Relationships

Yes, such a museum exists – launched in Zagreb, Croatia. In addition, the exhibits tour cities across the world. Nothing in our lives touches us, engages us, changes us, teaches us, devastates us and enchants us more deeply than our most intimate relationships. So now we have The Museum of Broken Relationships, dedicated to love’s end.

The curators exhibit personal mementos donated by people who have broken up with someone, or whose hearts were broken by someone, and the objects are accompanied by descriptions that evoke memories and emotions and tell stories we all can relate to. The bitter (an axe used to destroy the furniture of a love who left), the poignant (a wedding gown from a marriage torn apart by the inability to have children), the bizarre (you need to check this out) and the banal.

We have so many more rites of passage in our lives than the ones that our religious traditions acknowledge.

The museum covers it all, from long-distance relationships to short-term romances, from affairs that ended with rage and fury to love stories that ended tragically in death. One of the objects is simply an old fashioned key-shaped bottle opener with a description that reads, “You talked to me of love, gave me small gifts every day; this is just one of them?- the key to the heart. You turned my head; you just did not want to sleep with me. I realized how much you loved me only after you died of AIDS.”

I have no idea if this is art, but thousands of people are visiting this museum and its traveling exhibits, and thousands are contributing objects as satellite sites pop up all over the world. Love itself is an art, a gift and a legacy – and we have no rituals for the demise of relationships (except divorce). Given that we’ve all had different sorts of loves in our lives, this is, unsurprisingly, tapping into something crucial.

It used to be that religion made meaning of our rites of passage. But these days, we have so many more rites of passage in our lives than the ones that religious traditions acknowledge. This museum suggests that art not only can move us and inspire thought, but is actively therapeutic – inviting us to search for deeper insights into our most intimate relationships, the ill-conceived and the enduring, the destructive and the life-affirming.

Ultimately, the fact that this museum has opened and found popularity suggests there is no amorous relationship we have from which there isn’t wisdom to be gained, however painful it may be. And revealing the wisdom to others is a creative, artistic act. So what object would you donate from one of your past relationships?

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