All of us fail. A lot. Failures come in all shapes and sizes, some serious, some not-so-much. Most recently, I’ve been failing repeatedly at trying to get a determined mother mouse to relocate her nest in the lovely brush behind our fence rather than on our deck (or in our grill!). I’ve failed at inventing recipes, writing grants, getting mosaic projects to look the way I want, and a host of other things. I understand that failure is part of the creative process, so I try to accept it with at least good humor, but I’ve never quite gone as far as putting mine on display. So, needless to say, I was fascinated to learn of the Museum of Failure.
The Museum is a collection of failed projects and inventions from around the world. It began as the brainchild of psychologist Sam West, who launched the exhibit in Sweden in 2017. The museum celebrates the glory and contributions of failures, and the important role that failures play in innovation. It traveled the globe for several years, but like so many ventures, seems to have gone into hiatus during the pandemic. The 3-D version of the museum has recently been in Calgary, but the virtual version is available to any of us. You can watch a brief introduction via this PBS video from 2021.
You can view the online version of the collection here. It includes well-known failures like Google glasses and less well-known failures like bottled water designed for pets, or “phone fingers” that cover your finger in plastic to avoid smudging the screen.
As I thought about the Museum of Failure, I thought first that the mere existence of the museum could be an important lesson for young people. It also could be fun for young people to search out more examples of failed projects, either from current technology or the many websites on invention failures, and create a display of their own. Older students could share it with younger ones, to help teach them the importance of failure. Sounds like an important project—even if it doesn’t go exactly as planned!