The Wash

Georgetown’s Museum of Failure: A success story

On display in Georgetown, the pop-up Museum of Failure is opening-up discussions around failure with its exhibit on flops from around the world

Failure is on display–intentionally–at a newly opened pop-up exhibit in Georgetown Park.

The Museum of Failure, which is open until Nov. 5,  illustrates various market failures with the theme that “failure is the mother of success,” according to the museum’s website.

 “We don’t talk about failure,” said Samuel West, founder and curator of the Museum of Failure. 

“Anybody who has had any success in any area of life knows that there are considerable failed attempts and the not-so-glamorous story is also part of reality,” said West. “I think we don’t talk about that enough.”

New Coke failed before the original version of Coca-Cola was brought back. Mirika Rayaprolu/The Wash

Since its inception in Sweden in 2017, the museum has been a traveling exhibit showcasing failed products and services from around the world. These flops have paved the way for innovations that are now household names.

From failed 2001 versions of Segways to the popular ‘hula chair’ that rocked in a way equivalent to an abs workout, the space explores projects that laid the foundation for better versions of products that are now consumed universally.

Coca-Cola’s New Coke was one such product that lasted for roughly 10 years before being taken off the shelf due to extra sweetening that didn’t appeal to consumers, according to the Coca-Cola Company website. A glimpse of the New Coke before now stands in a glass showcase for museum visitors.

West, a clinical psychologist with a Ph.D. in organizational psychology who was inspired by the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia, aimed to bring discussions around failure in innovations to museum visitors.

Museum attendees viewing the food section that showcases failed food products. Mirika Rayaprolu/The Wash

The section on Donald Trump’s various failed business products stood out to attendee, Kira Pomeranz. 

“It reminded me that despite my past shortcomings, as long as I keep putting myself out there in different ways, I will see success and growth for myself as long as I keep trying,” Pomeranz said.

‘Trump: The Game’ flopped after its release in 1989 selling 800,000 copies out of the expected 2 million. Mirika Rayaprolu/The Wash


A Wall of Failure encourages museum visitors to write their failures on sticky notes for public display. 

“It provides an opportunity for people and guests to share a moment or several moments that are their own failures in life,” said Parsa Afsharjavan, a visual artist and creative director based out of D.C and Miami who is a museum ambassador for the pop-up.

“The wall shows that everyone is subject to failure, is failing or has failed at something whether currently or recently or is about to fail.”

Pomeranz felt a deep moment of introspection after sticking her note on the wall.

Two different attendees bonding over the same failure. Mirika Rayaprolu/The Wash

“When you physically walk away after putting that sticky note on the wall and zoom out and see that your failure is one small note in a sea of others, it brings a sense of camaraderie,” said Pomeranz. “I am one of many people who has failed at many things.”

The pop-up traveled throughout the United States, appearing in Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and Minneapolis. Internationally, it appeared in Jeddah and Seoul as well as several cities in Europe, including Vienna, Lille, Paris, Milan, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Hanover, and Stockholm. 

Attendees are encouraged to share their failure on the Wall of Failure. Mirika Rayaprolu/The Wash

Situated in Georgetown Park, between M Street, NW, and the C&O Canal, the museum opened on Sept. 7 and will stay open until Nov. 5 from Wednesdays through Sundays. Ticket prices stand at $25 for adults and $20 for children over the age of 7.

The Museum of Failure’s next pop-up exhibit is expected to open in London in February 2024. 


Mirika Rayaprolu

Before becoming a graduate journalism student at American University, I was a freelance reporter and a political researcher for Young People for Politics in Mumbai, India. Some of my published work includes reports on the Bombay dock explosion of 1944, a study on female radicalisations by ISIS in the U.K. and an analysis of online fan clubs of the Columbine High School shooters. My video production work includes Bombay Groove, a documentary on Mumbai’s underground hip-hop scene. My interests lie in covering reproductive freedom, immigration and workers’ rights. I am originally from Mumbai, moved to Dallas in 2022 and currently reside in Washington, D.C.

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