What it’s like to visit a museum ded­i­cated to failed love...with your boyfriend in tow.

The famed Museum of Bro­ken Re­la­tion­ships in Croa­tia gives new mean­ing to the term “let­ting go.”

ELLE (Canada) - - Insider - By Liz Gu­ber

Should I be wor­ried that you’re tak­ing me to see an exhibit about breakups?” asks Bren­dan, my boyfriend of three years, as we stroll hand in hand to the Museum of Bro­ken Re­la­tion­ships, in Za­greb, Croa­tia. I smile, clutch his hand a lit­tle tighter and tell him to “think of it as a bond­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.” We’re here on hol­i­day, and I’m too cu­ri­ous to pass up one of this city’s top sight­see­ing spots.

Lo­cated in Za­greb’s post­card-per­fect Up­per Town neigh­bour­hood, the six-year-old museum dis­plays the phys­i­cal rem­nants of failed re­la­tion­ships. The mix is as eclec­tic as a train-sta­tion lost-and-found bin: a lone shoe, a box of gourmet mi­crowave pop­corn, a bou­quet made of pa­per. Most of the keep­sakes sit on il­lu­mi­nated plat­forms, like small al­tars of heart­break, ac­com­pa­nied by per­sonal es­says about what they sig­nify. As I walk through, I spot an “ex-axe” em­bed­ded in a cracked wall that was used to chop up a cheat­ing lover’s fur­ni­ture.

These quirky mat­ter-of-fact yet heart­felt dis­plays have made the museum a must-see for tourists and lo­cals alike, draw­ing al­most 100,000 visi­tors a year and spawn­ing dozens of trav­el­ling ex­hib ex­hibits that have hit cities like Seoul and Helsinki. One exhibit even touched down in the Yukon last year, and a per­ma­nent sis­ter museum opened on Los An­ge­les’ Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard this past sum­mer.

The es­says are as var­ied as the ob­jects they re­late to and re­veal the many ways we deal with heart­break. There’s pain: “Still it hurts” reads the story of a long-dis­tance ro­mance that ac­com­pa­nies a hoodie from Narasaraopet, In­dia. Hu­mour: “Not com­pat­i­ble” are the only words to ex­plain the Wi-Fi router from San Fran­cisco. For oth­ers, it’s glee­ful ret­ri­bu­tion, like the toaster from Den­ver with text that teases “How are you go­ing to toast any­thing now?” Or ac­cep­tance, like the stuffed loon toy from Toronto, whose donor, de­feated, wrote, “I think every­one re­ally tried... The world just kind of works that way.”

As we walk through the museum’s rooms to the sound of Joy Divi­sion’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” I watch Bren­dan’s face for a re­ac­tion. He has never been through a breakup (I’m his first girl­friend), so it’s fit­ting that he likens the museum to some­thing fic­tional: “You know how there are feel-good movies?” he says. “Well, this is like a feel-bad movie. You watch it once, feel some­thing and then never want to visit it again.” h

You started the museum with your ex-boyfriend in 2010. How did it come about?

“We lived to­gether for some time af­ter the breakup, which meant we were talk­ing about our re­la­tion­ship and how to save some­thing of it be­cause it was beau­ti­ful and nice. It’s so sad that re­la­tion­ships don’t ex­ist any­where once they are bro­ken. We’re both in the arts and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place, like a museum, where you could send all the things you ac­quired to­gether along with your story?’”

You re­ceive an aver­age of two do­na­tions a week. How does that shape the museum?

“Our dis­plays are moulded by what we get. We have a room for fam­ily re­la­tion­ships, which wasn’t there when we started. The trav­el­ling ex­hi­bi­tions al­ways have a call for lo­cal do­na­tions, so the ex­hibits are never the same.”

Is there a piece in the museum that you re­ally con­nected to?

“There’s a very sad post­card from a 70-year-old wo­man in Ar­me­nia. [The post­card reads ‘Re­mem­ber that day of our walk and never forget.’ It was from a suitor who drove off a cliff on the day the wo­man’s par­ents re­fused to let them marry.] She heard about the museum and got some­one to write in English for her be­cause she wanted to share a part of her youth. That was very mov­ing. And every­one loves the toaster—when peo­ple get hu­mor­ous, you know they’ve moved on. We al­ways try to mix sad­ness with joy. That’s life.”

Why do you think peo­ple are com­pelled to do­nate?

“It’s an op­por­tu­nity for clo­sure. It’s a sort of rit­ual that can sig­nal a new start. Some also feel rage, so do­nat­ing is an act of re­venge. There was a note in our Book of Con­fes­sions [an on-the-spot op­por­tu­nity for visi­tors to con­trib­ute to the museum] from a 21-yearold wo­man who wrote, ‘I’ve never had a se­ri­ous re­la­tion­ship, but I want my first one to fail so that it can end up in this museum.’ The more I think about it, the more I see it as the hu­man urge to tell a story.”

Has run­ning the museum made you more cyn­i­cal?

“It’s made me more op­ti­mistic. Some­times I walk through the museum at night and I can feel the peo­ple be­hind the ob­jects. They are alive and just want to fall in love again. I feel con­nected to the lives of com­plete strangers. It’s a rare ex­pe­ri­ence.” n

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.