Experiencing a breakup can be one of the most heart-wrenchingly painful, emotionally abrasive, and outright hauntingly devastating hardships that any one individual can go through. The knight-in-shining-armor and royal princess who wedded and rode horseback into the sunset, the high school sweethearts whose love outlasted the sands of time, and all other romantically serendipitous clichés associated with the fanciful notion of “happily ever after” that are all too often portrayed in literature and film seldom actually exist, and any relationship that comes close to these types of manufactured fairy tale perfections are merely exceptions to the rule of reality. The harrowingly cold-hearted truth is that, by and large, the vast majority of relationships fail. Likewise, when a relationship arrives first class to its bitter end, the romantic divide can leave its casualties feeling psychologically crippled, disconnected, and worst of all, alone. Yet drifting amongst this icy cold sea of despair floats an unsinkable truth onto which those who feel as though they are drowning in this proverbial aquatic misery can grab hold of: heartbreak and the loss of loved ones are universalities, and as unfortunate and agonizing as they may be, they are things that everyone has or will almost certainly experience in his or her lifetime. The broken heart discriminates against no one, and much like the slash of the Grim Reaper’s scythe, it is inevitable. It is an all-inclusive part of life that all people must undergo, making itself something that all people can relate to and understand. While such truth may not be comforting in and of itself, fortunately there now exists a unifying sphere of healing where the community of the emotionally wounded can gather and grieve together, in a place where they can share and feel a little less alone. All ye bleeding hearts who have abandoned hope, fear not, and look no further than Los Angeles’s Museum of Broken Relationships, the second edition of its kind.
The original museum was born in Zagreb, Croatia in 2006 when the four year relationship between film producer Olinka Vistica and sculptor Drazen Grubisic came to its end. Uncertain of what to do with their shared belongings post breakup the pair decided to create an exhibition filled with objects that were significant to their relationship. They then proceeded to make the submission of articles representative of the fallen relationships of others open to the public, and thus, the museum was born. “The Museum of Broken Relationships is an invitation to an empathetic journey to the depths of the human heart,” said Vistica in The LA Times March 14, 2016. “It is a desire to connect visitors in meaningful ways across growing divides of class, community and culture that seem to define our world.”
The Times further noted that the opening of the museum’s Los Angeles installment was made possible only after esteemed lawyer and art collector John B. Quinn’s visit to the original “generated complex emotions unlike any other museum he visited,” prompting him “to bring the concept permanently to the City of Angels.”
Similar to its parent museum, the Los Angeles collection is filled with seemingly mundane objects that are donated anonymously. Each object is accompanied by a short narrative that includes a start and end date, much like that of a tombstone, and provides a small insight to the relationship from which it was derived. While some of them are funny and others are sad, some of them are outright disturbing.
From its beginning to its end it is clear that the arrangement of objects is meant to start off with the lighter, funnier pieces, but as visitors move forward the ambiance of the museum grows colder and heavier with each successive artifact, and each person’s story becomes seemingly more palpable than each of his or her’s predecessors.
Although no two items are alike, every one of them shares the commonality of being profoundly significant to each of their respective relationships, and the impact of such significance creates an unprecedented, multifaceted platform for catharsis that allows people to connect.
Although none of the donators know each other personally, from a distance there is a connection that is generated between them because they have chosen to share these mementos symbolizing heartbroken chapters of their lives that now all live under one roof. Submitting an item indicative of one’s loss, trauma, and heartache to be openly shared with the public undoubtedly places the donator in a position of vulnerability. In a bittersweet light it is almost as if each donator took this singular, courageous leap together, hand in hand, by making the decision to showcase the items that, for some of them, represent the darkest part of their lives.
In addition, because the collection of items represents varying degrees of loss and heartbreak, it provides visitors who may be struggling with the loss of loved ones a shielded refuge to connect not only with the story of each of the museums artifacts, but also with other visitors who may also be in the midst of grieving.
The museum even provides a safe and quiet space where the visitor can leave behind his or her own romantic war stories in its confessional stationary.
This provides yet another avenue for catharsis which also serves as a further means of showing the visitor that he or she is not suffering alone.
While the museum does afford the grounds for mourning and entertaining heartbreak, the journey through this graveyard of fallen romances isn’t entirely bleak. The museum can also serve as an interesting date for the adventurous blossoming couple, or even as a channel of growth, learning, and appreciation for the seasoned duo who have gone through more than several White House administrations together.
There is after all a gift shop, and how can visitors not bring the flow of streaming tears to a screeching halt whilst navigating through an assortment of tastefully humorous broken-hearted memorabilia? For those who actually experience such an unstoppable flow of tears, the bittersweet upside is that the gift shop also sells tissue.
This isn’t to discount any of the proven effective means of healing for the wounded lover’s psyche, but it doesn’t hurt to have a refreshing, new approach to dealing with breakups. When the value of healing is stacked up against the price of a ticket – $18 standard and $15 for students – the cost of admission is a seemingly small price to pay. Similarly, there are at least a few upsides to having one’s heart puréed and served in a rusty saucer to a wake of baby vultures. For one, the ending of a relationship can serve as the ultimate experience for learning and emotional growth. Likewise, just how the phoenix rises from its ashes, the conclusion of one relationship can pave the way for a new one and serve as the foundational beginning of something better. When hope seems all but lost, one simple fact remains: there is an impermanence to the broken heart that will always be remedied by time. Life will always move forward, and at minimum, the Museum of Broken Relationships serves as a reminder to just that.