We all have different ways of dealing with the mementos left behind when a love is lost. Unable to let go, some of us hide the barrettes he gave us before he left town to “find himself” in an ornate box under the bed, while others burn photos taken of her before she was caught texting a “friend.” The most mundane items in the world suddenly represent everything that might have been.
When Croatian artists Olinka Vistina and Drazen Grubisic separated, their reluctance to part with the sentimental reminders of their fizzled love inspired them to open the Museum of Broken Relationships, so that the items could remain together.
At first glance, this concept may seem to contradict healthy healing, but the idea took off, and while the museum was on tour, people from all over began to donate their reminders of heartbreak. Now the museum has a permanent home in Croatia and contains a fascinating collection of former tokens of affection. Besides the anticipated teddy bears and letters, the collection also includes a few poignant and sometimes unsettling surprises – a tiny bottle filled with a woman’s tears, an axe, and taser gun, and perhaps the strangest offering, a prosthetic leg.
As melancholy as the subject may seem, the museum is quite popular—be it voyeurism, purification, or just the acknowledgment that the lonely feeling of heart sickness is universal, over 1,000 people per week visit the collection. Due to this location’s intense success, a second Museum of Broken Relationships opened in Los Angeles in 2016.
The Atlas Obscura Podcast is a short, daily celebration of all the world’s strange and wondrous places. Check out this episode about the Museum of Broken Relationships.