A Museum of Broken Relationships
Written By Ashley Hutchinson
A strange compilation of objects, of varying shapes and sizes, populate the sterile rooms of the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia. I was only there for a 24 hour period with my traveling companion; the two of us knew very little of Zagreb, so we googled things to do and came upon the strangely enticing name of this small museum at the top of a hill.
We climbed and climbed, all in order to view the small vestiges of different loves that ended. The “artifacts” themselves were submitted by normal, everyday people. Which might have been what added to my fascination with the topic. How to commodify the love that we feel in our everyday lives, endowing objects with meaning, and creating a greater meaning of our own heartbreaks. It sounded like shit I do on the reg.
The museum itself wasn’t totally remarkable, much like most of the objects chosen to symbolize a love that died; whether it be parental, romantic, platonic. One of the objects was a chew toy, the placard underneath was a quote from the person who submitted saying something along the lines of “his dog was the most significant thing he left behind.”
While this seemed right up my alley, I was surprised by how little I cared or invested in the lives of these people. Truly shocked. I’m normally extremely affected by the mundane or everyday moments around me, but for some reason the most resonating idea I got from this experience was that in reality, no one will ever care more about your heartbreaks than you will. The museum felt like a place for the contributors to get closure for themselves, rather than for the visitors to glean something meaningful in return. The concept itself proved more interesting than the actual product, but perhaps that was its most interesting quality. It begged the question for me: is the human mind prone to giving objects so much meaning and power that they begin to symbolize a person? And we revel in the pain they give us until we physically can’t let them go? I would be lying if I told you I didn’t still have some notes written to me by my high school sweetheart, somewhere in the bowels of my dresser back home.
Love is so scary and transient and immeasurable that it is impossible to even quantify it. Maybe the objects served as some sort of unit of measurement, or some sort of beacon of light and clarity in the midst of the confusion that heartbreak brings. Some of the objects submitted to the museum symbolized relationships that spanned over one night, two weeks, fifteen years. Some of the most compelling stories were those that took place over the course of a day, illustrating how breathtaking it is to lose someone you never even had.
To me, as I walked through the different exhibitions, it was almost comforting; my lack of emotional connection to the subject matter. No one knows the scars I carry with me. No one cares that I was cheated on, rejected, played with. I will always carry these experiences with me, until I die, I don’t need an object to endow these feelings with. The whole concept of a broken heart, to me, is actually quite selfish. It’s all ego and no logic; not to say that it is bad or wrong. It does explain why the museum even exists. We all want to believe we are special, that our heartbreaks, experiences, our lives are something remarkable. There’s no crime in that. But it is important to acknowledge our insignificance, in the end. It might just free you.