When Wrong Goes Right: 30 Creative Museum 404 Error Pages

404 pages are the dead ends of the internet, but some museums are using them for a bit of playful audience engagement.

New Museum, New York, with a 404 page featuring Maurizio Cattelan’s “Untitled” (all screenshots by the author for Hyperallergic)

Broken links are strewn throughout the internet, digital dead ends created by lost archives, website revamps, or just sloppy typing. Some museums simply have standard “page not found!” text on their 404 error pages or built-in redirects to their home pages. But other institutions are more playful with bad URLs, using art from their collections or that they’ve exhibited to visualize the mistake: for example, the New Museum’s 404 page features a Maurizio Cattelan horse whose head is lost in a wall. (Cattelan is a bit of a 404 favorite, with his dead Pinocchio in the atrium of the Guggenheim Museum appearing on that institution’s page.) A few museums offer a small easter egg, including San Francisco’s Exploratorium, which links to instructions for building a camera obscura, and the Seattle Art Museum, which has an embedded video of a baby seal filmed at its Olympic Sculpture Park. Still others take the opportunity to provide some on-brand humor, like London’s Natural History Museum, whose 404 page shows a stegosaurus skeleton above the text, “That page may have evolved or become extinct,” and Houston’s National Museum of Funeral History, which states, “You have made a grave mistake!” over an image of a coffin.

Below are 30 of the best museum 404 pages out there. Know of one we missed? Add it in the comments!

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, with a 404 page that rotates dire images from the institution’s collections and exhibitions, including this one of Maurizio Cattelan’s “Daddy, Daddy” (2008)
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC: “Houston, we’ve had a problem”
Jewish Museum, New York: “Oy Vey!”
Vasa Museum, Stockholm
Museum of Modern Art, New York, with Ed Ruscha’s “OOF” (1962)
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, with a 404 page including a link to the Chester Jenkins typography
The 404 page on the Cooper Hewitt collection site
Victoria & Albert Museum, London, with “Mirror” (1675)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
Seattle Art Museum, with a video of a baby seal at the Olympic Sculpture Park
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, with a 404 page that pulls up the livestream of Warhol’s grave
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, with work by Jasper Johns and Robert Therrien spelling out “404”
Natural History Museum, London, with the institution’s “newest extinct resident”: a stegosaurus skeleton
Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago: “Whoops. There it isn’t,” with the 1902 Lambert typewriter that attempted to improve typing
Mount Vernon, Virginia, with George Washington’s faux “Rules of Civility”
National Museum of Funeral History, Houston: “You have made a grave mistake!”
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, with Joseph Decker’s “Boy Smoking” (1853–1924)
Denver Museum of Nature and Science: “It’s not the end of the world…”
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, with one of the cycling 404 pages, this one showing the animation of Daniel G. Andújar’s “Technologies to the People” (2015)
Exploratorium, San Francisco, with a link to instructions for building a camera obscura
California Science Center, Los Angeles: “Your theory about the location of this page has not withstood experimental analysis”
Wellcome Collection, London, with an animation of Eadweard Muybridge’s running cat
The Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose, California
Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas: “This experiment has gone wrong”
Science World at Telus World of Science, Vancouver
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, with a 404 page whose “page not found” and “broken” texts are animated as breaking
Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Dearborn, Michigan
Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida
Shchusev Museum of Architecture, Moscow
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