Medievalist, storymaker, theatre director, folk dance teacher, BBC / AHRC New Generation Thinker

Review: The Museum of Broken Relationships

6751 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California.

Note: I wrote this review as a mini thought-piece back in September and then forgot about it.  Since then, we have had Weinstein and Spacey and #metoo.  Museums teach us more about the ‘now’ than we may realise at the time.


My partner and I visited the museum by accident.  LA was hot – hours before the biggest wildfire in its history – and the museum promised shelter from the burning stars of Hollywood’s ‘road of broken dreams’.  So we went to wallow in other people’s misery for a blissful, cool hour.

The first Museum of Broken Relationships was founded in Zagreb by two artists.  Rather than binning their love-tokens at the end of their relationship, they made a museum for them.  Although full of objects – unfinished knitting; beautifully curated belly-button fluff and a wedding dress crammed into a pickle jar – this is a museum of stories.  There are revenge tragedies as Machiavellian lovers burnt each other’s clothes; an unrequited love story embodied by a Betty Boop model from a woman who’d had her first same-sex crush on a co-worker but never told her. There are stories of loss, and a mystery story in the form of an old Derby hat found during house excavations with a scribbled letter inside: “try to forgive me.”  Abusive relationships prick like thorns amongst gentler tales.  Like the breast implants donated by a woman who’d carved her body into her ex-partner’s ideal, several objects commemorate threats, coercion and lying.  A picture made by an abusive mother was donated by the daughter who had cut ties with her – but who honoured her mother’s wish that her art would appear in a museum.

Relationships are so badly represented in movies that, with a slight soundtrack change, pop-classics such as Mrs Doubtfire, Grease, Twilight and Pretty Woman could become terrifying stalker films.  This museum’s stories of hurt, survival and healing are common, yet rarely told.  They challenge the abusive-dynamics-disguised-as-romances that Hollywood’s movie industry glamorises.  In this sacred space, belly-button fluff becomes a relic of human survival.

When we stepped back onto the street, Tinseltown’s heat had faded, along with some of its romance.