I read about the Museum of Broken Relationships before I travelled to Zagreb. Once there, I knew this was one of the places I wanted to visit, as it had grabbed my attention with its unusual premise. It began with two artists who broke up and met to give each other their belongings back. But then they had the idea to put those items in a museum as a tribute to their failed relationship. Over the years their museum grew with thousands of people sending their stories along with mementos from their broken relationships.
I must confess I am not a museum gal. After an hour at one I am usually exhausted by all the information and my attention dwindles. But this museum may be the only one I have ever visited where that didn’t happen. Perhaps because it’s rather small or maybe because it spoke to me on a basic emotional level. It was definitely the only museum where I’ve cried. Because “broken relationships” are not just flings that didn’t work out, there were stories about marriages falling apart, about missed opportunities, about abuse, addiction and one room, the one where I didn’t even have the strength to read every story, was focused on broken relationships between parents and their children. Next to the items were stories, describing the relationship, consisting of a few words or a few paragraphs. In some of them people looked back fondly and from others I got the feeling that these people were still hurting and could not move on.
It’s interesting to see a museum that doesn’t focus on big and important people and events, but on the small everyday struggles we go trough. The items on display were simple, everyday things, like shoes, toys, letters (or a wedding dress or an axe) and they may not be historically significant, but you really see how they were very important to the people they belonged to. The toaster has to be my favourite, just because it made me smile after I had gone through so many heartbreaking stories. Its description reads “When I moved out, and across the country, I took the toaster. That’ll show you. How are you going to toast anything now?”.