Lost Love Leads to Study of Emotion
By Jennie Dorris
A paupu fruit necklace is among the items on display at The Museum of Broken Relationships-Pittsburgh created by CMU students.
Fifteen Carnegie Mellon University students spent the fall studying heartbreak.
As part of a joint project between the English Department and Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), English undergraduates asked Pittsburgh residents to share objects that represented broken relationships and ETC master's students designed an exhibition to tell the stories of lost love.
The result, the Museum of Broken Relationships-Pittsburgh, opens at the Mine Factory on Dec. 2 and runs through Dec. 30. The local items will join items from the international collection, which began in Zagreb, Croatia.
"Even though these stories are specific to the people who lived them, they are universal stories about loss and how people cope with loss," said Sarabeth Boak, lead producer for the ETC portion of the project, which focused on how to exhibit the items.
The Croatian project has inspired 40 other exhibitions around the world. The idea to create a Pittsburgh edition struck English Professor Jane Bernstein when she visited the original collection.
"I absolutely fell in love with the museum in Zagreb, and when I came back to Pittsburgh I was determined to get something going," Bernstein said.
With a seed grant from CMU's ProSEED/Crosswalk program and support from English Department Head Andreea Ritivoi, Bernstein partnered with ETC co-teachers Shirley Saldamarco and Chris Klug to create the class "The Museum of Broken Relationships." Five ETC students and 10 students took the course.
Saldamarco saw value in her students working with Bernstein and the museum's Croatian founders, Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić.
"The ETC team had to find a way to make this exhibit their own and create something that was unique to their project. At the same time, they had to remain true to the overall mission and objective of the museum," Saldamarco said.
Boak's team decided on a warehouse theme to emphasize the idea of people letting go and storing their heartbreak. The students built items like pedestals for the objects and also focused on creating a narrative for visitors.
"In having all these stories about loss, you want to cultivate an emotional arc for the guest as he or she moves through the space," Boak said.
Boak acted as the link between the two groups. She brought the English students to the ETC to show their designs, and she learned about the objects the students were collecting in the community, which went beyond failed romantic relationships.
"The Kennywood magnet stood out to me," said Jessica Tsai, a junior in the English Department. "It literally described how the author overcame an abusive relationship with an uncle."
Tsai said the Kennywood magnet represented the good times the person had with the uncle and it was donated as a way to let go of bad memories.
The English students have created a book, "Confessions from Pittsburgh," which contains photographs of all 65 objects collected — including those not among the estimated 40 in the show — and essays by the students, which detail the process of creating the museum.
What: The Museum of Broken Relationships-Pittsburgh
Where: Mine Factory, 201 N. Braddock Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15208.
When: 5 p.m. - 8 p.m., Dec. 2-30
What: A talk with Museum of Broken Relationships founders Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić.
Where: Giant Eagle Auditorium, Baker Hall.
When: 4:30 p.m., Dec. 1