Since it began as a pop-up museum in Croatia in 2006, the Museum of Broken Relationships has grown into an internationally touring exhibit of breakup-related objects — the bizarre, the everyday, the devastating. The one thing that unites them is their connection to failed relationships.
But why would anyone want to visit a museum full of objects from relationships that no longer exist? Well, it's really about the stories behind the objects. Before couples go their separate ways, they often invest meaning in seemingly banal items simply because they're connected to their lost love. Sometimes, this requires a lengthy explanation — how could a few used emery boards mean that much to a four-year marriage? At other times, the object itself is the story.
Now, for the first time, the museum will set up shop stateside, in Los Angeles. So, we spoke with Alexis Hyde and Amanda Vandenberg, the director and assistant director of the museum's first L.A. exhibition, about what's in store for visitors — and why breakup stories matter.
Hyde wants to make one thing clear about the museum: "It’s not necessarily sad or heartbreaking." Instead, she says, for the people donating items, it can be "cathartic" and "brave" to share these experiences with others, partly because breakup stories signal the end of something and the start of something new. They remind us that life will go on for the newly separated people.
Of course, the objects in the exhibit vary wildly. Past objects have included teddy bears, furry handcuffs, and even an axe. But Vandenberg says that this makes total sense: "When you think about your own past relationships, it’s the odd objects that carry the specificity... of why that relationship was different, why it went a certain way."
As of now, the L.A. exhibit is still taking donations for objects, in case any recently single readers are interested in sharing a piece of a lost love. As a rule, the museum accepts any and all submissions, as long as the objects don't violate anyone's anonymity. But the curators also want to avoid some of the, um, extra personal items, like bodily fluids (yes, that has come up).
"Give us your heartbreak," Hyde says. "Send us your objects."
Click through to view a selection of items from the exhibit and the stories from the people who donated them.