Throughout college I had a serious boyfriend. We were both English majors and inside the cocoon of academia, it mostly worked. For his birthday one year, I spent a small fortune (for a college student) on a first-edition J.D. Salinger novel. I still remember the day I gave it to him and how his face filled with awe and disbelief. Three months later we broke up. Sometimes I wonder what happened to that book. Does he still have it? Does he page through it late at night and think of me (ha!)? Did he sell it? If so, am I entitled to a cut? I guess I’ll never know.
Mementos from a past relationship are tricky. Tossing them in the trash feels wrong but so does keeping them around. At one time they symbolized a future filled with promise and hope, but after a relationship ends, these objects take on new meaning. Former lovers Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic, both of Croatia, faced a similar quandary when they called it quits. Rather than duke it out over shared possessions, the ex-couple decided to create a monument to heartbreak—a place where others could send their trinkets from past relationships, accompanied by a brief explanation of what went wrong.
Located in an old palace in Zagreb, the Museum of Broken Relationships is one of the Croatia’s most popular tourist attractions. The museum’s collection includes more than 4,000 objects, about 15 percent of which are on display at any given time. All submissions are kept anonymous and become property of the museum once received (i.e., you can’t get your ex-boyfriend’s ratty old sweater back if you rekindle things next year).
As you can imagine, submissions range from the bizarre (a 37-year-old piece of wedding cake, unused acupuncture pens and a gallstone) to the truly tragic (a parachute rig sent in by a woman whose lover died in a skydiving accident and a postcard sent by a man who jumped off a cliff after his girlfriend’s parents shunned his marriage proposal).
Some stories are long and meandering while others get right to the point. The woman who sent her gallstone simply wrote, “This is what he gave me.”