A Museum for Broken Hearts and Broken Relationships

IUPUI museum studies program partners with the Museum of Broken Relationships

Heartbreak comes in many different forms and is experienced in many different ways. It can come from the loss of a loved one, a broken relationship or even the absence of a relationship you’ve always wanted. In the relationships we build, we grow memories and sentiments that leave lasting impressions on us, long after that person has left our lives. The Museum of Broken Relationships, MBR, is a place of healing and reflection for people who want to share their stories of heartbreak. The artists show their heartbreak through objects that they feel represent their experiences. While all of the featured artists are anonymous, you can come to understand their pain by reading the stories they include with their pieces. An exhibit is now available on the IUPUI campus due to the partnership between the IUPUI Museum Studies Program and the Museum of Broken Relationships and will be available until April 22.

The placard at the museum said, “they reflect a variety of human experiences including death, violence, and abuse, as well as liberation, joy, and hope.” 


This artwork on display represents the loss of a loved one.

MBR was created by Croatian artists Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić in Zagreb, Croatia in 2006 after their own personal breakup. According to the MBR website, the idea for the museum was inspired by the loss of relationships and the process of grief that people go through. Interested visitors will now not have to travel to Croatia to visit the museum but instead may explore the different exhibits across campus.

IUPUI professors in the Museum Studies program, Lois H. Silverman and Laura Holzman partnered together with 59 of their students from three different courses to plan the arrival of the museum. 

Silverman said, “We are honored to be the first and only museum studies degree program in the U.S. to collaborate with the Museum of Broken Relationships.”

Located in Eskenazi Hall in the Herron School of Art and Design building, MBR is open to all visitors for free, not just students or faculty. The gallery shares images into heartbreak from the local area of Indiana as well as from across the world. Also available to the public are satellite displays at different locations on campus and Indianapolis. Some of the locations include the Indianapolis Public Library, in the university library, the campus center and in the Garfield Park Arts Center.

Loss is a universal experience that everyone has at some point in their lives. One individual from Indianapolis donated a tea cup that had sentimental value and representation to them. This person shared the story of spending time with their grandmother, dressing up and traveling to the L.S. Ayres Tea Room. Their grandmother passed away shortly after the birth of this individual’s daughter. 


Teacup on display.

“I cherish the special time I shared with my grandmother and only wish my daughter could have shared in our special teatime,” they said. 

This piece serves as a remembrance for the time spent and memories made with someone they loved and will always remember. However, it is not always people we say goodbye to but addictions or bad habits can also cause pain. Another piece in this museum offers insight into the fight with an addiction to Ativan. On display is a simple pill bottle but to the person who donated the item, this piece means healing. 


Empty Pill Case on Display

The story shared on this showcase tells of a doctor prescribing them medication to take away their anxiety. Unfortunately they had no idea how addictive this drug would turn out to be for them. They shared the strength and healing this journey brought from addiction to recovery and how a little pill bottle could mean so much to one individual. They dropped the pills and the doctor and moved forward. 

“I’m grateful for my time with Ativan,” they said. “It opened my eyes to the seductive ease of prescription drug addiction and gifted me empathy, humility and gratitude for my loving friends and family. Sometimes, we need medical options. Always, we need each other.”

The museum is truly about the broken relationships in our lives and one small green bear shares the perfect example of a broken relationship. The person who donated this bear was adopted and had never known their birth parents. This May Bear was an item that they had held onto their whole life, representing the birth parents that they were hoping to one day meet and learn more about. But when they finally met their birth mother in person, it was a disappointment. 


May Bear on display.

“She was not what I expected and that's a learning lesson I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Expectations can be painful, so trust in the actions you see, not what could be,” they said. 

Eventually the truth about this May Bear was revealed to them. The bear was not a gift from their birth mother but actually their birth father, who had abandoned her birth mother after becoming pregnant. This bear that had once offered hope was now something that would forever remind them of how a broken relationship can devastate and linger long after the relationship is over. 

They said, “May Bear is a haunting reminder of a deeply broken relationship, with someone I’ve never met and have no desire to.”

The MBR offers these objects as monuments to the pain, the hurt and the healing we encounter in life. The museum also encourages visitors to leave their stories behind by either pinning it to the wall for others to share in or by throwing it away in the bin and leaving it behind forever. 


Share your story at the museum.

“The individual items, elements of this exhibit are highly personal, shaped by different cultures and histories. But together they form universal patterns that are waiting for us to discover them and find the comfort they can bring,” the placard at the museum entrance said.

Alyssa Work (she/her) is a senior majoring in Communication Studies. She is also a social media intern, and this is her first year on the Campus Citizen team.

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