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As Boris and I were wandering around Zagreb, we kept seeing the well marked signs directing visitors to the local museums. There were the usual: museums for modern art, theatre, ethnography, natural history.

But the one that caught my eye over and over was The Museum of Broken Relationships. What the heck could that be?

Turns out, I really didn’t do any research on Zagreb before our visit. If I had, I would have known that this museum had won awards for most innovative museum in Europe and had started as a touring exhibit. Its collection grew from town to town, until finally it was decided to create a permanent home for it in its birthplace: Zagreb.

So what could possibly be on display at such a museum?

Well, a lot of things. The museum exhibits mementos from past relationships; not all were romantic, although most were. Not all were break-ups, but most were. Each item had an explanation of its significance written by the owner who donated it. Provenance ranged from Bloomington, Indiana, to Kilkenny, Ireland (love you, Kilkenny!) To Manila, Philippines.

For example, one of my favorites was a clever collection of air sickness bags (don’t worry, they were unused), remnants of a long-distance relationship that didn’t make it.

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Others were more intense, like a flashing dog collar that had been returned to its owner by an ex-wife who later committed suicide.

Love letters, teddy bears, articles of clothing,  books, time pieces. Each told a story, and all kind if made me wonder whether I woulf ever want to donate to a project like that, and if so, what would I donate?

What would you donate to the museum?

The power objects can hold over us and our memories really struck me, too.

Later, Boris and I debated the true purpose of the museum. I liked the idea of potential catharsis for the donors, but many stories reflected a lot of bitterness (which makes sense). Boris wondered whether people can truly move on from something if it has been memorialized and institutionalized.

Plus, by the end of the museum visit it might be hard for some to see the positive outweighing the negative. I was less interested in the prevalent bitterness that Boris was very bothered by and more fascinated by the relics and stories themselves.

Overall, though, I was glad we went. It was one of the most unique museums I’ve ever been to, and it provided great fodder for discussion over lunch

What do you think? Would you donate to the Museum of Broken Relationships?

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