Q. What do Zagreb, Los Angeles and Nanjing all have in common?
A. Each share a shrine to the tragedy of failed romances.
A new mobile exhibition that has made a stop in Nanjing is shining a light on that which is possibly the world’s most unusual museum concept; at this point in time, Nanjing has not one, but two, Museums of Broken Hearts.
We see all kinds of exhibitions these days, but the Museum of Broken Hearts is truly something altogether different. The original version of the concept, in Zagreb, capital of Croatia, was awarded the Kenneth Hudson Award for Europe’s most innovative museum in 2011.
It almost goes without saying that such museums exhibit the remnants of former personal relationships. Star exhibit in Zagreb is undoubtedly one named “ex-axe”; donated by a woman from Berlin after her lover left her for another woman, she put the axe to good use by chopping up her former love’s furniture.
Here in Nanjing, the permanent installation in Pukou District opened in 2017 and has more than 300 objects displayed. Donated by the broken-hearted, each time when someone makes an offer of an exhibit, the curator will ask if they are completely sure. Most determinedly reply that they will never want these things back, but some hesitate, afraid of later regret. The curator puts QR codes beside every object, so that visitors can read the whole story of every broken relationship.
The new mobile exhibition, which can now be visited in its location near Nanjing’s Confucius Temple, has the to-be-expected key rings, high heels, lipsticks and diaries, but also special interaction areas. In the exhibit “Ten Thousand Sentences”, people have left their opinions about love; turned into banners, now they hang on the walls of the museum. Visitors passing by can read these notes and choose to reply or write their own.
The Museums of Broken Hearts have more in common than the leftovers of love; they aim to teach people how to say goodbye to the past, to find themselves in others’ stories, and perhaps unbreak a heart or two.
The mobile Museum of Broken Hearts can be visited until 19 May in Nanjing’s Confucius Temple, at 80-1 Gongyuan Jie (南京夫子庙景区陀螺失恋历史贡院街80-1号). Open daily from 10am until 11pm.