According to TripAdvisor it’s the third most popular attraction in Zagreb, easily beating all other cultural destinations and its name resonates so well with audiences around the world that it goes viral with every new exhibition. Of course I’m talking about the Museum of Broken Relationships, awarded the Kenneth Hudson Award 2011 for ‘the most unusual, daring and, perhaps, controversial achievement that challenges common perceptions of the role of the museums’. Sounds like an interesting place, and it is. I loved it. Here’s some reasons why (you might implement in your own institution).
Great cafe with excellent coffee and wine
First impressions matter a lot. The first thing most people see of the Museum of Broken Relationships is a fashionable terrace where you can sip a coffee or nice glass of wine, served by energetic and friendly people, while listening to jazz. It’s such a cool place that they even served the water for a dog with a slice of lemon! Obviously, we spent time there prior to and after our visit, discussing the museum and more important things in life.
Enthusiastic and welcoming staff
Croatians in general are friendly and outgoing people and the staff of the Museum of Broken Relationships was no different. As soon as we came in we were welcomed in the warmest way possible by a host who sold us our tickets, explained that they encouraged photography and pointed to the free wifi. Other visitors she helped install QR readers to read the labels in their native tongue, or in any other way she could.
Tell stories people can relate to
The Museum of Broken Relationships is a collection of rather mundane objects (shoes, a bike, bears) with labels explaining their significance, much like 90% of all museums in the world. Yet people read every single label, laugh and cry and discuss objects and share anecdotes because the labels tell stories that any visitor can relate to in a language they will (mostly) understand.
Unpolished and genuine
Nothing in the Museum of Broken Relationships is hidden behind glass. Visitors are asked not to touch objects (too much) but it’s not the objects that are ‘sacred’; it’s the story they tell. And thus, although the facilities are great, lighting isn’t always perfect, some of the walls have cracks and the presentation isn’t always very subtle. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the museum tells a real story.
From the people, for the people
The collection of the Museum of Broken Relationships is crowdsourced. People hand in their objects reminding them of a past relationship at one of the many traveling exhibitions of the museum or hand them in in Zagreb. Like the collections of most other museums, the objects once belonged to real people like you and me and because this is made very clear from the beginning of the museum, it makes the entire experience more personal.
Great giftshop (great brand)
Hands up if you also think the gift shop is the best part of any museum! Certainly the gift shop of the Museum of Broken Relationships is super cool, mostly because their brand is strong. They have bad memories erasers, ‘I love break ups’ t-shirts and of course a beautiful catalogue which should be sold online because it documents love and despair better than any cheap novel in this summer’s top-10 bestseller list.
The Museum of Broken Relationships is a great museum, charging less than 4 euros to have hours of fun (and less than 2 for a great glass of wine while you’re at it). If we really have to say something negative about them, it’s that I think they could do more with their collection online (which I’m sure they will, considering their good social media efforts). At the same time it’s great they’re not, because it gives you something to do in Zagreb for an afternoon plus early evening in their cafe. Chapeau!
Header photo by ruxandraale on Flickr.
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