The Museum of Broken Relationships

“The Museum of Broken Relationships grew from a travelling exhibition
revolving around the concept of failed relationships and their ruins.
Unlike ‘destructive’ self-help instructions for recovery from failed loves,
the Museum offers a chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation:
by contributing to the Museum’s collection”

Based in Zagreb, Croatia, the Museum of Broken Relationships should be at the top of any would-be visitor. As mentioned in my previous post on Zagreb, the museum provides its audience with an exhibition that is harrowing and tragically beautiful in equal measure. It’s no wonder then, that it was the recipient of the 2011 Kenneth Hudson Award for the Most Innovative Museum in Europe.

The Museum of Broken Relationships first opened in April 2006, its home at the time being a converted storage unit. In the 10years since then the museum has gone from strength to strength and – after touring through Croatia, Bosnia and Germany in its early years – has since reached Taiwan, Mexico and the USA! Its current tour will reach Finland and Korea as well as re-visiting Germany and the USA. As always, donations are more than welcome.

Alongside this is the original museum, which holds a permanent home in Zagreb’s Upper Town. No longer a converted storage unit though, it’s housed in a beautiful building and has its own café and gift shop. Whilst the majority of the exhibit is filled with token of lost loves, the idea of broken relationships transcends that, with the exhibit also including the loss of relationships with parents, children and family friends. In the final room is a book where visitors can write about their own personal experiences if they feel like sharing as a spur-of-the-moment decision.

As the exhibits are sensitive by their very nature, a lot of the stories held within will stay with you long after your visit. Personally, there were four that really stuck with me. The first was to do with a copy of the PC game Football Manager from the mid-2000’s whose addictive nature has been reported to be the reason behind many a failed relationship. In this instance, that reason was given substance as the man who donated his copy of the game lost his relationship due to his addiction. It was one of the more light-hearted exhibits and provided a little bit of comic relief.

The second example is actually featured on the museum’s website and is titled ‘An Ex Axe‘. Donated by someone from Berlin, Germany and not actually as murderous as it sounds, the scorned lover used an axe to hack up the furniture his former partner left at his house after she went on holiday with her new partner. The third was extremely bitter-sweet. One half of the couple was moving from England to Australia and her partner was staying behind. He wrote a list of nine reasons why she should stay although, in his written accompaniment he mentions he left out the most important tenth reason; that he loves her.

The fourth is the one that really gets to me. The exhibit itself is is a photograph, however the story that accompanies it is one of tragedy. The photograph was donated by a resident of Asia who had held onto it for over 70 years before letting it go. According to her story, when she was a young girl the photograph was posted through her letterbox by a potential suitor. His approach was rebuffed by the girls parents who had the final say on their child’s marriage. The next day – possibly out of embarrassment, shame and/or heartbreak – the young man committed suicide.

As you might tell, this exhibition is a no-holds-barred kind of affair. The brutal honesty and raw emotion of the words cut right into you and really does give you cause to reflect. Memories of my visit have often results in my thinking about whether or not I would donate anything to the museum. At the time of visiting I was in a relationship which – unbeknownst to me at the time – would end the next week upon my return from travelling. In hindsight, it was the right decision and I have no qualms about it. Which leads me nicely onto this point about whether or not I would donate; I wouldn’t. Not at this point in time anyway.

When I visited I didn’t write anything in the book and there is nothing from any of my previous relationships I would want to donate. I feel now that each of the relationships had run its course and had to end for each of us to move onto better things.

At the end of the day, this was an experience – and not one that I will forget in a hurry. I’d be more than willing to visit again and if it tours to a city near you, or even if you go to Zagreb, it’d recommend you checking it out. And if you’re caught up in the aftermath of a lost relationship with a loved one, family member or old friend… or if you are having trouble letting go, consider donating your story.

After all, this is a platform for everyone’s stories to be heard and you never know, it may give you the lift that you need.

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