There was a great article in the New York Times a couple of days ago that ruminated on the nature of museum artifacts and the power they have to emotionally move viewers, as well as to intellectually stimulate them. There are a number of shows currently up in NYC that succeed at these tasks more or less successfully. Part of the article discussed that the manner in which these artifacts are presented to the public makes a huge difference in how the public perceives and experiences them. If one can view the artifact in close physical proximity, "The artifact becomes a spur to the imagination: It reveals history as something lived, and thus as a result of choices made. We come more alert to the ways things are, and how different they might yet be..."
But, it goes on to say:
"If an exhibition is staged so we are placed too close to another world without being given tools to make sense of it, the effect is disorienting rather than clarifying. The artifacts can amaze, but we can't use our imagination to go further."
Exactly! The full article can be found here.