Lonely Planet Writer

Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships features crowd-sourced mementos of heartbreak

From world famous institutions filled with modern and classical art to unique establishments dedicated to the likes of biscuits, diamonds and even pizza, today, museums around the globe are diverse and varied. And in Zagreb, Croatia, visitors have been taking the opportunity to journey through some of the more intimate, sombre and reflective aspects of life, at the Museum of Broken Relationships.

Inside the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia.
Inside the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia. Image by Alan Vajdić

Calling it “a physical and virtual public space created with the sole purpose of treasuring and sharing your heartbreak stories and symbolic possessions”, the museum’s founders Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić describe it as a study on how people love and lose. Featuring an ever-growing collection of items donated from breakups, each unique piece is accompanied by a personal and anonymous story from the contributor.

The museum is filled with unique objects that tell a story, including an axe donated anonymously. Image by Ana Opalić

A deeply personal project, the idea to start the museum was inspired by Olinka and Dražen’s own breakup, and their need to come to terms with it. “The question they asked themselves was what to do with all those tokens of love, material and immaterial, that one collected during one’s relationship. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a museum of a kind that could help you store it for some time?” Ivana Hrgovčić of the Museum of Broken Relationships told Lonely Planet Travel News. As well as sharing personal stories with visitors, the museum aims to help the contributors overcome loss through creativity.

The museum’s founders were inspired to start the project after their own relationship ended. Image by Nataša Njegovanović

The first exhibition for the project took place inside a shipping container in Zagreb back in 2006. As well as their own personal collection, Olinka and Dražen asked their friends, families and acquaintances to contribute objects. Media soon picked up the story, and before long, the pair were receiving phone calls and emails from people all over the world who wanted to be involved. Today, the museum has permanent displays in Zagreb and Los Angeles, and has exhibited in over 47 cities worldwide.

A pair of handcuffs inside the Museum of Broken Relationships.
A pair of handcuffs inside the Museum of Broken Relationships. Image by Ana Opalić

“Some objects, as can be expected, come in greater numbers and these for the most part relate to weddings, for example wedding albums, dresses, rings. But on the whole, the collection proudly boasts objects as curious as a bicycle, a prosthetic leg, a rear-view mirror, a gallstone, an axe and many others,” Ivana said. Ivana also said that often, the objects and offerings convey the cultures of different countries, with an abundance of knitwear coming from countries in northern Europe, a lot of tech gadgets coming from Asian destinations like Singapore and Taiwan, while places marked with big waves of migration offer stories of relationships broken by distance. If it all sounds a little too heart-breaking, travellers spending more time in Croatia can stop by the Museum of Love Stories in Dubrovnik to once again lift their spirits.

More information on visiting the Museum of Broken Relationships is available at the official website.