Museum of Broken Relationships
After watching a few serious relationships fall apart (it's been a weird year, guys), I've realised that you wind up with all these things that no longer seem to mean anything. Zagreb's award-winning Museum of Broken Relationships is an attempt to answer the questions, 'Do these memories have value anymore?' and 'How the hell do I get rid of my ex's shit?'.
WHAT IS THE MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS?
The concept is a simple one: people from all over the world send in significant objects from their broken relationships, along with what it means to them. They're all collected in Zagreb and curated at their whitewashed gallery; since they've been receiving lots of submissions, they rotate items and tour them round the world. It’s odd at first seeing things as mundane as a toy car or tin boxes beheld as important exhibits, but once you start reading about their stories, you find yourself totally sucked in.
It's a roller coaster ride of emotions in the museum, which covers everything from long distance romances to fractured families to puppy love in the space of just an hour. Something as innocuous as an Uno pack (below) tells a heartbreaking story of military rape, while an uplifting checklist of things to do in London reveals a relationship that never quite got its feet off the ground. There's also a few interactive elements to the exhibition; you can pop on some headphones to listen to the songs a man from the Philippines can no longer bear to hear or immerse yourself in the shaky footage of a war nurse telling her story.
To be honest, it’s not an easy experience and the entire area is filled with a kind of silence reserved for religious places – we got a double whammy of moodiness as it was raining and the transparent roof didn’t do much to disguise that. Once we'd finished walking round the space, we found the Confessional in the back. It's a small booth where you can scribble your own story in a book filled with hundreds of others in every language you can imagine, which puts your own little heartbreak into perspective while magnifying it at the same time.
On your way out, there's a modest souvenir store that sells tongue in cheek souvenirs as well as what is now one of my prized possessions: a gorgeous book that includes all the exhibits they have. If you're feeling peckish, there's also a small cafe but I can't really attest to the food there since we skipped it.
The Museum of Broken Relationships has been hailed one of the most innovative museums in the world and while I haven't been to nearly enough of them to pass that judgment, it's definitely one of the most moving places I've ever been. There was something so beautiful about watching all these meaningless objects take on lives and pain of their own, and how the museum makes you experience and empathise with them as if they were yours.
It made me feel better knowing that the things that always get to me (glow in the dark stars, snail mail, radio static and stationery store Christmas trees) still carry weight. That these memories - these little failures - are still significant.
Photos from this article are courtesy of the Museum of Broken Relationships.