Museum of Broken Relationships Houses Heartache


The Museum of Broken Relationships displays the mementos of lost love. Illustration:Jeff Neuman/Seattle Times/MCT Graphics/Getty Images

If a relationship is like a shark that must constantly move forward or die, then what the Museum of Broken Relationships has on its hands is a lot of dead sharks. And, er, shards.

Romantic or not, when any cherished relationship hits the skids it can blow your heart to smithereens. With heart shards in mind and an eye toward healing and purposeful change, the Museum of Broken Relationships is an innovative resource for helping people seek solace, let go and move on.

Curated from once-valued possessions that exes of every ilk can't stand to keep around anymore yet can't bear to throw away, the museum provides a safe space to showcase the flotsam of flouted vows and forsaken promises and the sad souvenirs of subterfuge. Anonymous, sometimes gut-wrenching personal stories presented alongside their related objects provide context, imbuing ordinary things like, say, a pair of Converse sneakers, a latch key or a wisp of hair, with universal meaning.

Below is a video showcasing some of the museum's most interesting pieces. Heads up, though – it includes language that may be slightly offensive to some and a couple of items of an intimate nature:

Raw and unedited, personal artifacts selected from hundreds of warehoused and ever-incoming donations from lovelorn people around the world comprise the installations at the award-winning, avant garde museum in Zagreb, Croatia, in an international traveling exhibition, and at the museum in Los Angeles, Calif., which, while they scout a new bricks and mortar location, is alive and well online.

A poignant smattering of samples includes:

  • A jar of spicy Amish pickles purchased by a young woman for her first love. He quit returning her texts within the span of their two months together and she never had a chance to give him the pickles.
  • A Peter Pan plush toy bought by a 25-year-old man to remind himself to keep the boy inside alive. Now 50, his placard caption reads, "the boy is lost to me."
  • An ex-wife's non-traditional, wispy, silk wedding dress crammed into, not kidding, a pickle jar, after her husband got the seven year itch and split.
  • A magnifying glass left by a woman as a reminder to a self-absorbed lover that she had always felt small.
  • A small bottle filled with tears.

Be they ordinary, extraordinary or even downright bizarre, the objects alone are just bloodless tchotchkes without the stories that bring them to life. The museum FAQ section invites contributors to write their personal confessions: be frank, withdrawn, furious, imaginative, witty or sad. Your story creates the museum display. Your story is your stage.

The too-much-information types and etiquette mavens out there may find the museum's theme to be more pure exhibitionism than art: Like, seriously dude, see a therapist already! Conversely, reality-show-loving voyeurs may see it as another delicious way to access misery on demand: Like, uh-uh girl, I cannot believe she took an axe and chopped up all your furniture!

For as long as humans have had hearts, there has been love lost and unrequited. And for as long as there has been love, there's been heartbreak and pain. But perhaps the real takeaway from seeing brokenness on display is to note that it's in the liminal space between love and loss that we find our shared humanity and discover our capacity for empathy.

Any way you slice it, Bob Dylan says it best: Ain't no use jivin'. Ain't no use jokin'. Everything is broken. At least it is at the Museum of Broken Relationships. But hello out there, if you're one of the lucky ones and it ain't broke, for gosh sakes, don't fix it.


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