“A collection of items that everyone can actually identify with”

I recently read about Croatia’s new Museum of Broken Relationships, which I expect will have no trouble continuing to expand its collection of objects people don’t want anymore because the objects are bitter reminders of an ex.

One line in the article struck me: that the museum is a “break from tradition” because it’s comprised of “a collection of items that everyone can actually identify with.”

Naturally, when I read this, the critical thinking lights started flashing in my brain and I started thinking of exceptions to “everyone.” (Those who are fortunate enough to stay with their first love for their whole lives, never experiencing a breakup. Children and young people who have not yet had a relationship begin, let alone end. People who take vows of celibacy for religious reasons, or who for whatever other reason do not enter into romantic relationships.)

But even more than my little list of exceptions, another thought immediately came to me. So much of my studies and work have involved building personal connections between individuals and museum exhibits. If done right, isn’t any collection of items one that people can identify with?

If this idea is truer of some museums than others, one that comes to mind is the Hall of Human Origins at the National Museum of Natural History. The large, interactive, multifaceted exhibit asks, “What does it mean to be human?” which should be universally relevant to human visitors. Although not everyone accepts the theory of evolution, almost everyone can relate to the characteristics of humans highlighted throughout the exhibit, such as using tools and walking upright.

Which museums or museum exhibits do you think are easiest for everyone to identify with?


About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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2 Responses to “A collection of items that everyone can actually identify with”

  1. Diana says:

    What about museum exhibits that remind us of our collective humanity, like an exhibit about outer space or something? At least for me, when I view an exhibit about space, it gives me a little shiver to think that we’re just a tiny part of the vast universe and that we’re all in this together and that maybe we should all just try to get along and be happy because life is too fleeting to spend it being petty and miserable.

    • disciullo says:

      Thanks for your thoughts! I think in a way, we can all relate to outer space because we’re all detached from it (in the sense that it’s so much bigger than us and whatever matters are taking up our mental energy on a daily basis) and because we’re all part of it.

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