A red wedding dress hangs in a corner, evidence of a broken heart. A garden gnome with a shattered nose sits on a pedestal as a poignant reminder of a disastrous ending. A rainbow-coloured centipede toy lingers forlornly at the edge of a room, some of its legs ripped off by a frustrated lover.
All of these items and many more are evidence of relationships that ended – sadly, badly, oddly and even tragically – and which are displayed in Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships, one of the quirkiest and fascinating human interest museums I’ve ever seen.
Under this roof are symbols of loves gone wrong. Trusts violated. Lives ending. Emotions mangled. Even funny stories from lovers who realised that getting out was better than staying in.
And, while the museum is about broken relationships, it’s also a testimony to positive outcomes since it came about as a result of a break-up.
In 2003, after Croatian film producer, Olinka Vištica, and sculptor, Dražen Grubišić, ended their four-year love relationship, they joked about setting up a museum to house their left-over personal items. Three years later, the joke became a reality and they asked friends to donate objects left behind from their own break-ups. Ergo, the broken relationship collection began. Beginning as a travelling exhibit, it was shown to the Zagreb public for the first time in 2006.
The exhibit continues to travel around the world and its premise is simple: Disappointed lovers donate an object that meant something in their relationship, provide details and submit their story.
Exhibits range from the tragic (a mother’s suicide note, a relationship lost in the Bosnian refugee camp) to the ridiculous (“his dog left more traces than he did”) and provide a wonderful, quirky and emotional roller coaster where you’ll find yourself laughing out loud one minute, then wiping away a tear in the next.
There’s a toaster, a Galileo thermograph, a game of Uno and a red stiletto shoe. There are stories from people in India, the U.S., Bosnia, Ireland and France. Each tells a story and each elicits an emotion. The exhibit we saw this week, we were told, displays only 10 percent of the entire collection, as the display changes regularly since there are so many items donated by people around the world.
And, if you should wish to pick up a special something for a not-so-special someone in your life, you might just find the perfect thing in the gift shop. Here you can but “bad memories” erasers, ice-breakers matches and a set of postcards with such sayings as “I’m having a great time….all by myself” and “I could look at you for hours….I just want to see you leave”.