Imagine a museum about love and loss with an ever-growing collection of items accompanied by a personal yet anonymous story of its contributor. The unique Museum of Broken Relationships creates a space in Zagreb, Croatia to share heartbreak stories of people from around the world with symbolic possessions.
An in-complete post-it note, for example, reads "I really think you’re an angel. Good Morn,’ at the entrance of the museum. "I couldn’t leave this post-it note and never got to complete it. This is how I will always feel about the two of us. Something incomplete,” says the caption that accompanies the note on display.
Nearby, there is a ticket to the 1968 Mexico Olympics, in memory of a relationship that ended in a sad divorce in 1993, along with a note, saying: "These tickets always brought back exciting memories and so I could never destroy them.”
Moving on, a wedding dress sent from Istanbul tells a heartbreaking love story: The groom died in a terrorist attack shortly before their wedding ceremony. "A week before he passed away, we had our pre-wedding photo shoots ... My wedding dress is the best representation of the day I want to remember him by,” reads the caption telling the story behind the outfit.
But the anonymous submissions donated to the museum from around the world, including Turkey, Croatia, Mexico, and the United States, are not always related to ex-lovers.
While some are in memory of loved ones, others are just symbolic, once-adored possessions that were part of oneself. Two bras were donated by a lady after being diagnosed with breast cancer, for instance.
Similarly, a mother, who lost her son, contributed a door with messages written all over by her child's friends.
Someone from the U.S., who could no longer have pizza due to health problems, donated a pizza maker box.
The idea of the public space came to visual artist Drazen Grubisic and film producer Olinka Vistica in a late-night conversation as they said "goodbye” after ending a four-year relationship in 2003.
"This late-night conversation somehow gave birth to the simple idea to collect the objects that were too painful for them to keep,” Charlotte Fuentes, the museum’s collection manager, told Anadolu Agency (AA).
It took the former lovers over two years to fully conceptualize the "so universal" idea. "They made an installation during an art show and displayed objects anonymously in a ship container," Fuentes said.
Little did the couple know that the 2006 installation would capture hearts around the world, and turn into a museum in 2010. It has so far held 59 exhibitions in 32 countries. The global crowd-sourced project currently has permanent museum outposts in Zagreb and Los Angeles.
"Today our collection counts more than 3,000 objects and it is regularly growing with every traveling exhibition, but also daily since everyone can donate by filling out a contribution form on our website,” the manager said.
Asked about the museum's popularity, she said: "Love in all its forms doesn't need an interpreter so everyone can find a story that speaks to them.
"The visitors often recognize how people are alike in matters of love and loss. In a way, the museum offers an exchange of experience, so they no longer feel alone in both their suffering and joy.”
Fuentes also shared a quote from their guest book: "My gratitude for offering a unique and invaluable service to those of us who have something to give but nowhere to give it."
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the museum was visited by around 11,000 people every year, and the management expects to reach the same number soon.