A picture is worth a thousand words. Image courtesy of Museum of Broken Relationships Pittsburgh.

When Jane Bernstein went looking for things to do during a visit to Zagreb, Croatia, she decided to kill a few curious hours at the city’s Museum of Broken Relationships.

“Initially, I thought it was going to be some weird, quirky thing,” says Bernstein, who teaches English at Carnegie Mellon University. “I was surprised when I got there at how moving and engaging it was.”

The Museum Of Broken Relationships started in 2006 as a project meant to explore failed relationships, both romantic and otherwise, through the relics left behind. In the decade since, its creators, former artist couple Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, have accumulated objects and stories from willing contributors all over the world. They created the museum in 2010 to house their collection. A second location opened in Los Angeles last June.

When Bernstein learned that the museum also collaborates on bringing traveling exhibits to other cities, she saw an opportunity. “I thought, I have to take this back to Pittsburgh,” she says.

Now she and a group of CMU students are calling on Pittsburghers to donate items that represent ended relationships for an upcoming exhibit.

Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia. Image courtesy of Museum of Broken Relationships.

The Pittsburgh edition of the project encompasses broken relationships of all kinds, including romantic and familial, as well as those with a friend, pet, home, country, city or business. Contributors can donate any item they want along with an explanation of what it means to them.

The pieces and their accompanying stories will go on display from December 2, 2016 through December 30, 2016 in the East End gallery space, The Mine Factory. Any items not chosen for the physical exhibit will still be included in the Museum of Broken Relationships Pittsburgh Tumblr site. They will also go in a student-created book that contains images, essays and journal entries documenting the collection process.

“Everything will be exhibited one way or another,” says Bernstein.

Even though contributors must provide their personal information, all collected pieces will be exhibited anonymously. Any given names are used to catalog items when they go into the permanent archives at the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia.

Wooden hearts can’t be broken. Image courtesy of Museum of Broken Relationships Pittsburgh.
Wooden hearts can’t be broken. Image courtesy of Museum of Broken Relationships Pittsburgh.

So far, Bernstein says they have collected between 30 and 50 items. She and her students are shooting for around 90.

Even Bernstein couldn’t help but contribute what she calls a “reminder of a broken relationship.”

“I thought, I’d love to get rid of this because of what it represents,” says Bernstein.

The exhibit will also contain a portion of the original museum’s permanent collection.

While more than 2,000 traveling Broken Relationships exhibits have popped up all over the world, in places like Tokyo, Dublin and Chicago, Bernstein believes their project will stay true to defining Pittsburgh.

“Each [traveling exhibit] is meant to represent something of the culture and people in a city,” says Bernstein. “That’s a major piece of why I wanted to bring it here. Maybe it can reflect something of the complicated, complex history of Pittsburgh.”

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated...