Situated on a somewhat unpleasant stretch of Hollywood Boulevard, two doors down from a wax museum and across the street from the Guinness World of Records Museum, the Museum of Broken Relationships is a welcome anomaly. Instead of oddities or creepy lifelike sculptures of celebrities, the large, immaculate space is filled with objects that, without context, would be totally ordinary: a green mug, a house key, a wooden spoon.
With a few obvious exceptions — such as the rubberized apron with big, cartoonish boobs protruding from it or the vial of someone's disembodied pubic hairs — the objects that fill display cases and line shelves are secondary to their captions, each of which tells the story of a failed relationship. Until it was submitted to the museum by its owner, each item was significant only to the person it belonged to. But now that it's in a museum, it's an artifact. As consequential as breakups can feel, the presentation feels appropriately reverent.
Following several months of previews, pop-ups and calls for submissions, the museum — which originated in Croatia in 2006 — opens its L.A. location to the public on Saturday.
The inaugural exhibit is populated with 104 objects, many of which were recently submitted by locals. According to curators Alexis Hyde and Amanda Vandenberg, the recent call for objects was way more fruitful than they thought it would be. "We were hoping we'd get like 20 good [objects] from the L.A. call," Vandenberg says. Instead they received 300, which augments the museum's permanent collection and brings its tally of objects up to roughly 2,000, most of which are housed in Croatia.
A visit to the museum involves a decent amount of reading (or it should, at least), but the nature of the space itself welcomes visitors to dwell and spend as much time as they'd like with the stories, some of which are lengthy. A tighter space might've made the museum feel more like a thrift store crammed with people's emotional baggage, but the Hollywood Boulevard space has a vastness, an airiness that keeps the experience from feeling oppressive.
Hyde says, "We're asking you to be vulnerable and open to other people's heartbreak and potentially very emotional, so it's nice to have a place that feels safe and not overwhelming, which I think it easily could have been."
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Its location and human curiosity likely will keep it populated with passers-by and tourists, but Hyde says she imagines it'll become a day-trip destination for Angelenos who typically avoid that stretch of Hollywood Boulevard. There's even a souvenir shop for visitors who want to commemorate their visits, but instead of sparkly shot glasses or garish T-shirts that say HOLLYWOOD YOLO or whatever, they'll leave with useful things — like bunches of sage to smudge away their own bad relationship juju.
Museum of Broken Relationships, 6751 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood; opens Sat., June 4; tickets are $18. brokenships.la.