After a relationship ends, even the most mundane objects can become painful reminders. One museum in Los Angeles puts them on display.
When you’re heartbroken, everything reminds you of the person who’s no longer there. So do you burn your love letters? Throw away your wedding dress after a divorce? Send back that single mismatched sock?
At the Museum of Broken Relationships in Hollywood, everyday stuff is exhibited as art along with each object’s story of betrayal or loss. The result is a moving collection of heartbreak.
One woman from San Francisco crammed her wedding dress into a pickle jar after her husband of five years left her. Even though her dress was “non-traditional” – meaning the kind you could wear again – she never did.
“I hate throwing perfectly functional items in landfills but would hate to see someone walking around in my once beautiful but now sadness-infused dress,” the woman wrote on a card now on display next to the jar.
The jar was used mainly for space, she wrote, but “any sort of appropriate pickle metaphors can also be invoked”.
All of the items at the museum are exhibited anonymously. The museum, which opened this summer, was created by a lawyer who visited the original Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia and wanted to bring the concept to Los Angeles.
Two artists opened the Croatian museum after breaking up and deciding to curate the debris from their relationship.
The exhibits in the LA museum are donated from around the world.
A Norwegian donated an iron with the short story: “This iron was used to iron my wedding suit. Now it is the only thing left.”
One exhibit displays an expensive bottle of wine a British couple having an affair planned to drink once they both left their spouses. But the wine remains untouched, the bottle never opened.
What happened to their marriages, or if their spouses knew about their infidelity, is left unsaid.
A Slovenian donated a key – a small gift from a friend. The story behind the key says: “You turned my head; you just did not want to sleep with me. I realized how much you loved me only after you died of Aids.”
The museum attracts both the broken-hearted having a cathartic cry and couples on dates, says Alexis Hyde, the director of the museum.
But she was surprised that it’s become a family destination for parents looking for ways to talk about love with their teenage children.
“It becomes this really safe place to talk about sex and relationships in a way that’s not like ‘Gross, mom stop talking to me,'” Ms Hyde says.
“It’s a really beautiful way to open a dialogue about what is OK and what is not,” she says.
“You’re going to have your heart broken and that’s normal. Even though you feel so alone, you’re actually very normal.”
“It’s a little less isolating I think.”
One of the more unusual exhibits is a pair of sizeable silicon breast implants a woman says she felt pressured to get by an ex-boyfriend. Her body rejected the implants and she had to have multiple surgeries to remove them and reconstruct her body.
“She held on to them to remind herself don’t change for someone else. You have to love yourself to be loved and be in a productive relationship,” Ms Hyde says, adding that the woman hoped her donation would inspire others to have healthier relationships.
“She was hoping that people would read this and take the cautionary tale.”
The museum also includes a broken promise ring and a collection of tins, boxes and books with examples of the “mutually loved font” of a former couple.
There’s a dress bought by a girl who planned to wear it to impress a boy. But the boy killed himself before she had the chance.
There’s also a drawer full of mix tapes on display. If you don’t remember mix tapes, they were the ultimate romantic gesture of the 1980s – painstakingly-made collections of music put together by recording songs off the radio on to cassette tapes.
If you missed the start of the song you planned to record, you had to wait for the DJ to play it again the next hour or day, depending on the song’s popularity.
The collection is not what people have come to expect from a museum on Hollywood Boulevard, where tourists frequent Madame Tussauds wax museum and where actors dressed as Chewbacca and Spider-Man hustle tourists for photos.
“This museum cuts through to the truth of the human experience now like a scalpel. I think that it’s a very sophisticated, conceptual art museum even though maybe the objects that compose it themselves individually might not be necessarily considered art,” says Ms Hyde.
Visitors here are more from the local Los Angeles art scene than tourists.
Inside, it’s a quiet, cathartic museum and many visitors walk the museum alone, quietly crying.
Many visitors say they come to feel less alone and more connected to their fellow lonely hearts.
But one visitor says the experience is overwhelming.
“I’m feeling their pain,” he says of the people who donated items to the museum.
“I just feel so alone in here.”