The Museum of Broken Relationships

Photo by Una Laurencic on

Synchronicity is a concept that was first explained by psychiatrist Carl Jung. I had some synchronicity visit me recently. I keep a small notebook of ideas for poems. Some entries are just titles.  Last week, I was paging through them and came across “The Museum of Broken Relationships” which I scribbled on a page back in 2014. Good title, I thought.

I went to my online collection of short-form poems and wrote a poem to that title.

The suggested donation to enter is expensive.
Each of us has our own gallery.
Mine is dark. Poorly lit. That’s intentional.
Letters, drawings, paintings, postcards, photographs – many poems.
It’s okay to touch. No one cares.

I always add an image to those poems, so I did a search on that title and was surprised to find that such a museum actually existed.

Carl Jung defined synchronicity as the idea that holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship and yet seem to be meaningfully related.  I’m not sure of the meaning here, but it does seem meaningful. Like interpreting a dream, I started considering possibilities. I was recently sifting through a box of old letters and emails I had saved. Some could be regarded as “love letters.” As someone married for four decades, I wondered to myself the wisdom or lack thereof in keeping these combustible pieces of paper.

I could have donated them to the actual Museum of Broken Relationships. It was a museum that grew from a traveling exhibition revolving around the concept of failed relationships and their remaining ruins. It started in Croatia in 2006 and became a permanent museum in Zagreb in 2010 and a new Los Angeles location opened in 2016. It closed in 2017 and it seems to still be closed but the website can still be viewed.

The idea was that you could donate an exhibit along with a title, the duration/dates of the relationship, the city/country of origin, and an accompanying story. Your personal information remained with the staff, so your exhibit is “anonymous.” The collection had no restrictions on content and ranges from a single object – a letter, a photograph – or several items, or a video or audio.

Along with those old letters, I have some mix tapes I made back in the day that chronicle relationships starting, building, and ending via songs and some of my narration.  It might be therapeutic to write the stories of those failed relationships.

We all have small museums, virtual and actual, of broken relationships. Sometimes we hang on to the exhibits even though seeing them is unpleasant. Reminders are important. Lessons learned. Roads taken.

Museo Art Tour

Monet pond
Water Lily Pond, 1900, Claude Monet via the Art Institute of Chicago

When I post here or in other places online, I usually use images along with the text. I sometimes use images of my own or otherwise ones that are free of copyright, royalties and legal issues. 

New to me as a source is Museo, a visual search engine that connects you currently with the Art Institute of Chicago, the Rijksmuseum,  the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the New York Public Library Digital Collection. Every image you find there is in the public domain and completely free to use, although crediting the source institution is recommended.

You might want images for a project of your own, or you might just want to take a digital tour of these collections. There are different options from the museums. For example, the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands (which I was lucky enough to visit in person in 2019), gives you options to create things (including prints) with the art on their site. 

For another post, I was looking for images to illustrate “sleep.” I did a Museo search and found the image below from the Rijksmuseum.

sleeping woman
Meisje slapend op bed Sommeil (Sleep)
print maker: Achille Devéria ||

From the museum’s page for this print, you can download it to use, order a poster print of it, or crop a detail and have that printed.

There are a good number of sites that offer these free images, including many submitted by people (like myself) who are okay offering work for no compensation – other than the occasional credit or donation on some sites.

If you are looking for images that are free and legal to use, here are my most often used top 10 recommendations.

  1. A Google or Bing search and most search engines allow you to search for images and filter those results by usage rights or licensing.
  2. Creative Commons  offers the licensing of work allowing creators to make it fully open for even commercial purposes or for just non-commercial use
  3. Wikimedia Commons
  4. Pixabay
  5. Pexels
  6. Wikiart
  7. Pxhere
  8. Unsplash
  10. Flickr has photos at all levels of usage rights but their own Commons is a good place to look.  From there I have discovered other sources for images including the very interesting Library of Congress photo collection.