{Croatia} The Museum of Broken Relationships

September 15, 2011


Travelling with a baby is always tiring, so with a very full conference schedule ahead of me I was going to have a restful first evening in Zagreb before #CECA2011 kicked off. Then I discovered that the much talked about Museum of Broken Relationships was open until 10:30pm!

Winner of the Kenneth Hudson Award 2011 for most innovative museum in Europe, the museum is “a unique emotional journey around the world through hundreds of breakups”. The idea for the museum started out as an art project in 2006, created by an ex couple with items from themselves (a wind up bunny of theirs is accredited as the first object) and their friends, each accompanied by a story ranging from a sentence to a couple of paragraphs. The collection grew, and since October 2010 it is now a permanent fixture in Zagreb, located in the beautiful baroque Kulmer palace in the historical Upper Town.

The exhibits are spread across eight rooms:

  • Allure of distance – intimations of proximity
  • Whims of desire
  • Rage and fury
  • Resonance of grief
  • Sealed by history
  • Tides of time
  • Paradox of home
  • and a room with video screens and headphones where you can view two films that are a montage of music and images, and one interview with an old lady about her relationship with a soldier.

All kinds of relationships and their breakups are represented, ranging from long distance or fizzling out over time, through incompatibility of values or desires, due to death from illness, accidents or even murder as reasons for them falling apart.

Beside the bunny rabbit, objects include mundane things such as a suitcase, shoes or airsickness bags; typical love related items such as letters, teddy bears or photo albums; items that tell of tempestuous times, such as shattered glass or an axe (used to chop up furniture, not people!); and slightly more obscure items such as a lobster or a “divorce day mad dwarf”. The gift shop also offers some themed souvenirs, such as pencils, bags and t-shirts with tear drop or band aid motifs, and the generously sized “bad memories eraser”. Instead of a guest book, there is a “confessional” where you can write down your broken hearted experiences. The museum continues to collect objects and stories in two ways: firstly, by accepting donations during travelling exhibitions, which they announce through local partners, and secondly via their website where you also have the option to “lock” your exhibits, if they still trigger painful memories, for as long as you need to recover, before releasing them into the museum’s collection. The idea is to eventually change or rotate the exhibits in the permanent exhibition e.g. once a year.

We spent almost as much time looking around the museum, as we did chatting to the young lady on the ticket desk who had just graduated from her Masters in museum studies two days earlier, and from whom we gleaned much of the background information about the museum. When we noted that all the stories seemed to be one sided, she told us of her idea for a temporary exhibition where both parties from breakups would donate their objects and storied to give two sides of the same stories. I think this is a great idea and hope the museum owners will take it on Board.

The museum, which also includes a cafe, is open every day until 10:30pm during summer and 9pm during winter (I’m pleased to see they’ve already taken our feedback about defining summer & winter on board and added some dates^^). It’s a private museum, so there’re are no discounts, but at only 20 kuna per head (about £2.30 British Pounds) it’s hardly going to burn a hole in your pocket and is definitely worth it. And photography is absolutely allowed, but unfortunately I have no way of transferring my pics from the DSLR to the iPad so they’ll have to follow once I get back home. Whether you’re already a fan of quirky museums or simply want to know what all the fuss is about, if you ever find yourself in Zagreb don’t forget to pay the Museum of Broken Relationships a visit!

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  1. The Museum of Broken Relationships – Photo Gallery | Museum Diary - May 3, 2012

    […] and finally managed to download the photographs from the Museum of Broken Relationships (see previous post from 15 September) off my camera. Click on the thumbnails to view the images at full size. […]

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