An “X-Files” button. A wedding dress in a jar. A glass case filled with severed dreadlocks.
These are a few of the objects in the Museum of Broken Relationships, which opened in Los Angeles over the summer.
Despite its name and concept — and its location on commercial Hollywood Boulevard, where people walk around dressed like Marvel characters, and tourists gawk at stars on the Walk of Fame — this temple of the dumped is a legitimate gallery that takes itself seriously. Spun off from its original location in Croatia, the space feels like a church. Or better yet, a quiet place for introspection and group therapy.
Designer Ryan Brown created the airy and simple design of the museum so that seemingly meaningless personal objects – from a jar of pickles to a used up tube of toothpaste — look like priceless artifacts, because they are.
“I bought this as a present for the first guy I ever (thought) I loved,” says the caption under the pickles. “He stopped returning my texts before I ever got the chance to give them to him.”
The dreads tell a more heartbreaking story. “These were my dreads. Morbid, I know. But notice the braided ends. I didn’t do that. Must have been every week for a year. She even tied them together using matching sewing threat. Our nuptial knots. Ten years old, a cut-off from our lives.”
Museum director Alexis Hyde, who sometimes walks around in a red, Trump-inspired “Make America Break Up Again” hat sold in the gift shop — admits that her expectations were managed when she did a call out for pieces for the museum in February. Hyde was hired to run the place by lawyer John B. Quinn, who wanted to launch an American outpost of the museum after visiting the original location.
“We thought when we opened, we would get like 50 items,” Hyde said, explaining that Croatia’s staff warned that it might be difficult to find unique breakup mementos. “They were like, ‘It’s a lot of the same.’ Not in a bad way, but it’s a lot of the same because we all go through the same things. . . . What we’re really looking for is a unique story that also speaks to the truth of the human condition, which is hard to do.”
But once the pieces and personal stories started coming in, Hyde found that many were one-of-a-kind.
“I think we’re almost at 350 objects now,” she said, with pride.
Massachusetts does have representation in the museum. Hyde is quick to show off two pieces that represent quintessential local heartbreak.
One is a stolen street sign out of Bridgewater. It was from a relationship that lasted from 2006 to 2014. Her name was Courtney.
“We fought constantly, but loved each other incessantly,” the caption says.
Hyde loves the classic vibe of the piece.
“You can’t help but be like, yeah, I know this one.”
The other Bay State offering is more complicated. A melted cellphone from Lexington tells an ambiguous story of what happened to an unhappy couple in a rented apartment.
The landlord, who submitted the piece, explains that the pair fought often.
“Cleaning up the apartment after they left, I found this flip phone in the oven. I think one of them put it there to spite each other,” the caption says.
Hyde says the strength of the piece is that it’s all about the empathy of the person who found it.
“It isn’t from a party from the breakup,” she said. “Ninety-nine people out of 100 would have thrown it away. For some reason, [the landlord] didn’t. They saw it and could feel the energy of it. They could relate.”
Meredith Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.