Cope with heartbreak at a museum dedicated to broken relationships

Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships is a repository of stories that don’t have happy endings


(Museum of Broken Relationships)

It is a story that has been told a million times before. Two people meet, fall in love, and before you know it, they can’t live without each other. But not all love stories have happy endings. Some are ugly, full of pain, but just as powerful. And every relationship comes with a memento of it’s own. Sometimes all it takes is a photograph or a ticket stub, and the memories of a romance from long ago come flooding back.

For some, it may be impossible to throw away such a memento. An inanimate object for one can signify the good phase of a bad relationship for the other. A museum in Zagreb, Croatia, has come up with the perfect solution for tokens that symbolise certain indescribable phases of your life. Dedicated to anger, nostalgia, affection and guilt, the Museum of Broken Relationships is a repository of mementos of passions that have now fizzled out.

Once upon a time

Designer Drazen Grubisic and film producer Olinka Vistica first came up with the idea when they tried to save, transform and ultimately overcome the breakdown of their own relationship. Like every couple, they sat down to divide their possessions after their relationship was beyond the point of salvage. They came up with the idea behind the museum as they joked about finding a place to store the tokens of love – both material and immaterial – they’d collected during their time together.

Grubisic and Vistica held their first exhibition in Zagreb in 2006, using a shipping container to display objects donated by friends and acquaintances. And just like that, the Museum of Broken Relationships was born. Today, the once travelling exhibition has a permanent home in Zagreb’s Old City area. So far, the museum has travelled to 44 cities in 28 countries, and boasts a footfall of over a million people. In 2016, it opened a branch in Los Angeles.

People can contribute in three ways – during a donation call in their city, by mailing it to the museum, or by uploading virtual content pertaining to their break-ups on the museum’s website. All donations are anonymous. The collection is always changing and evolving. The museum has over 2,200 mementos. However, only five objects are from India, so far.

This postcard was submitted by an Armenian woman, who received it from an old flame (Museum of Broken Relationships)
Love anyway

At any time, the museum exhibits around 100 tokens, each with a little write-up explaining why it was precious to the contributor.

One such token was by a 70-year-old woman from Yerevan, Armenia, who donated a postcard she received as a youth from a neighbour who was in love with her. Following Armenian tradition, his parents asked the woman’s parents for her hand, but were turned down. Mad with grief, that boy then drove his car off a cliff. Another was a photo of a square where a young couple met every day. The contributor said that was the spot where their relationship began, and that was where his girlfriend broke up with him, saying that she was sick of his jokes.

Not all tokens are about romantic relationships though. One contributor donated a toy given to her by her mother before she was abandoned as a three-year-old. Another contributor, who was raped as an eight-year-old, donated the police report her parents filed.

The stories behind each object is different – some make you laugh, some make you cry. Each object is a little piece of life, preserved and presented as a means of catharsis.

And before you ask, yes, I too donated something to the museum. A hotel bill, from a holiday I took with my then girlfriend. She told me she loved me, and broke up with me a week later.

Courtesy: Kartikeya Ramanathan, Hindustan Times