By: Kara Annett
My first heartbreak was at the ripe age of seven when I realized I could never be with Danny Phantom. Eventually, I got over it and opened my heart up to love again, only to have it shattered again when I realized Nick Jonas didn’t see me in the crowd at the Jonas Brothers concert and fell in love with me on the spot. Once again, I got over it and would later experience real heartbreak. And while everyone tells you that you’ll get over it (you will, eventually), no one really tells you what to do with all the stuff you feel guilty about throwing out (and why should we throw out a perfectly good sweater?).
Enter: The Museum of Broken Relationships.
The museum opened in 2010 in Zagreb, Croatia after Olinka Vištica, a film producer, and Dražen Grubišić, a sculptor, joked about creating a museum for the items left over from their relationship. Seven years after they broke up, they brought their vision to life. They asked friends to donate objects from previous relationships to build up their collection, and the Broken Relationships Museum was born. It has since expanded to a website where anyone can contribute their stories, a travelling exhibition, and a second location in Los Angeles. By 2018, there were over 4,000 objects in the museum’s collection from all over the world including a “Stupid frisbee” from Belgrade, an “Empty bag of fortune cookies attached to a Starbucks cup” from Vicenza, and the infamous “Twenty-seven-year-old Old Crust from a Wound of My First Love” from Mürzzuschlag. Contributors can also pin the location of their heartbreak on an interactive map (there’s one from Toronto, if you were curious).
Classic tombstone labels have been revamped to include the length of the relationship, where it took place, and the story and significance of the object. Most are short and (not-so) sweet and give the apparent Hemingway baby shoes story a real run for its money, while others spare no detail in describing the course of the relationship and its (often bitter) end. Some relationships are romantic, but others are familial or friendships, giving everyone the chance to express their heartbreak and contribute to the collection(now that’s what I call community contribution).
While some might find the concept bizarre, the varying collection of the Museum of Broken Relationships offers us a chance to anonymously express our frustrations and sadness long after it’s deemed appropriate because let’s face it: even years after a relationship ends, sometimes you’ll randomly be hit with those oh god, they would’ve loved this or I wonder what could’ve been thoughts. We’re only human after all, and there’s something comforting about knowing we aren’t alone in our pain. Making our heartache public and giving others the chance to hear the stories in our own words instead of bottling it up can be an extremely cathartic way of letting go, while also giving these objects a second life.
The popularity of the Museum of Broken Relationships not only shows the beauty of “unconventional” museums but also is an example of a successful collaborative collection; the curators choose what goes on display in each travelling exhibition, but the objects are all donated and interpreted with the donor’s own words. We’ll all have our hearts broken at some point, but that doesn’t mean we need to burn all our mementoes and bottle up our emotions. Instead, Vištica and Grubišić would much prefer you shared your story.