Another Surprise in Zagreb, Croatia
A great museum, focusing on a very unusual concept
As you wander around the Upper Old Town in Zagreb, you will come across an intriguing and unusual museum not far from the lovely St Mark’s Square with its Church of St Mark: The Museum of Broken Relationships.
The Museum of Broken Relationships grew from a traveling exhibition centered around the concept of failed relationships, their ruins and repercussions. Unlike “self-help” instructions for recovery from failed or lost loves, this museum offers a chance to overcome emotional stress through a creative process—-by contributing to the museum collection. And people all over the world have contributed, by the thousands. The idea of loss is a concept and problem that everyone can relate to, that everyone has experienced in one form or another, so it’s very human, very touching, very immediate.
This museum was conceptualized in Croatia and is located permanently in the historical part of Zagreb, but part of the museum has toured internationally in over 25 cities so far, including Taipei, Paris, Berlin, Cape Town, Singapore, Kilkenny (Ireland), Boulder (Colorado, USA), and Amsterdam. At the time we were there, there was an exhibition in Basel. At the moment there is a special exhibition on Jeju Island (known as the “Island of Love”) in South Korea. It is on until September 25, 2016.
Within the museum in Zagreb there was very recently a special exhibit called “What we left behind. Refugee stories”. There are 13 special stories, but only two of the items will be kept after the exhibit closed at the end of August. The others will be returned to their owners as the only remaining memories of what they fled.
The main exhibition is evolving and revolving, as they only show about 200 items at a time, and change them every few months. The collection is always growing because, wherever the special exhibit travels, people donate more items.
The museum’s exhibits take the viewer on a unique emotional journey around the world through a variety of items symbolizing break-ups in relationships. The founders realized that most societies around the world have special ceremonies to mark events such as births, deaths, marriages, graduations, and retirements, but most have no way of recognizing or marking the end of a relationship.
Hence, the invitation to share personal items that tell a story about a loss of some kind.
This is an unusual concept for a museum, but one that has universal appeal, as everyone has experienced a loss of some sort. It has many kinds of personal items, from teddy bears, to pieces of clothing, to everyday household items, to letters, to pictures, all telling a story of some relationship that ended: a few by death, or separation by war, some of parental separation, but most because of a couple splitting up. Each item is exhibited individually and has a board with its story—some very poignant, some funny, some very sad or tragic even, some angry.
The museum is housed in an old building—the beautiful baroque Kulmer Palace in the Upper Town (Gradec)—but the interior has been completely re-done. So, it’s modern inside, with very simple, clean lines and excellent lighting. It’s not a large exhibit, but it gets the message across—really capturing the sorrow and hope of a common humanity.
We enjoyed reading the story attached to each item, laughing out loud at a few, commiserating with others, totally empathizing with a few, especially those who were using their story as a catharsis for anger.
Look at some of the words accompanying the pictures here. The information boards are all in English and Croatian, but using the QR codes visitors can also read the captions in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish.
This is well worth a couple of hours. There is also a small café and shop.
Admission: 30 kuna/adult (about US$4.50), seniors and students 20 kuna
Hours: 9am-10:30pm (June 1-September 30)
9am-9pm (October 1-May 31)
Closed November 1, December 25, January 1, and Easter
Address: Sv. Cirila Metoda 2, Upper Town, Zagreb