Relive Your Messy Past At The Museum Of Broken Relationships

Want all the objects that remind your of a tumultuous past relationship preserved for all to see? It’s not like you want to keep that stuff around to torture you, right? The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia will gladly take it off your hands for you. Founded by two exes, artists Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, the museum encourages viewers to acknowledge the ways that our romantic past has shaped us – and it’s back in the US for another exhibition. Anyone who’s experienced a failed relationship can anonymously donate objects, which are displayed with an explanation of where they came from, the length of the relationship, and a story of what the object meant to the couple. The museum also features artifacts of broken family relationships and friendships.

A rabbit wind-up toy owned by Vištica and Grubišić themselves was the museum’s very first object. When they traveled separately to show their art, they’d take pictures of the bunny on their adventures to share with one another. When they’d received 40 donations, they used them to create the museum’s first incarnation, an installation in a ship container. The began to take the concept to different cities, using donations from locals to each area, gathering just about every type of object under the sun, including toys, dresses, underwear, and books. In 2010, they opened the permanent museum in Croatia, and now have almost 2,000 items.

Vištica told Collectors Weekly,

“We were trying to preserve the emotional heritage of past loves, because no one talks about them. Self-help instructions will tell you to forget about everything and be prepared for something new so you get ‘cured.’ But we never thought that our relationship was an illness. So we thought it would be great to preserve something from it, like proof that it ever existed.”

When she puts it that way, I can’t help but agree with her. Former romances shape our present experiences in a significant way, for better or for worse. Some people like to say that no relationship is a waste of time because you learn so much from each one and get to share a connection with someone, and I want to vom in my mouth a little every time I hear someone preach that in real life, but I think it can definitely be true in theory.

In the heat of a breakup, emotions are so raw, and it’s hard to imagine wanting to preserve painful memories. In a general sense, though, it makes perfect sense to honor the fact that a relationship once existed while still leaving it in the rearview where it belongs. Relationships are some of the most emotionally intense and personal things a human can experience, yet we’re heavily encouraged to erase them when they end. When a person moves away, peacefully drifts apart from us, or even dies, we have societal permission to remember them fondly and harp on what they taught us about life – not so with an ex. More often than not, we’re expected to pretend that person never existed to us, which is damn near impossible when you’ve shared such an intense connection at one point. I tend to believe most exes shouldn’t be friends, and I don’t mean to suggest living in the past, but you don’t have to be BFFs with someone to acknowledge that your former love for them – no matter how fleeting or long-lasting it may have been – altered you in some small way. Maybe feeling like we’re not allowed to remember a past flame makes it that much harder to move on and makes heartbreak that much more isolating. According to Vištica, that need to work through the past is what makes her museum so beneficial:

“After traveling the world, I realized it’s something we all share: the pain of having loved and lost. The feeling of having lost something and wanting to give it meaning in your life is universal. What’s different is how we express it…Here, you see that we all share this human experience and you are not alone. It becomes easier to understand the other person, no matter where he or she lives. The museum takes a visitor on an empathetic journey, which we lack in today’s digital world, where we live so fast and our memories are lost because they’re buried in emails or text messages or Facebook posts. The museum is connected to something that is slower, more nostalgic and melancholic, which is for me a synonym for beautiful.”

If you’re in San Francisco, you can check out the museum’s exhibition at Root Division gallery through February 28th! You can check out a gallery of some of the museum’s objects at Collectors Weekly.

[Collectors Weekly]

[Image via Museum of Broken Relationships]