One of its centerpieces is a large ball bearing that trundles through a kind of miniature roller coaster on the hour. Between that and the Smithsonian's brick, there lies a large pile of steaming desperation.
Of course some artifacts speak for themselves.
The Royal Armories in Leeds, England, shows off a tunic on which you can still see the blood of the soldier who was speared, and presumably killed, while wearing it.
A brief description suffices -- imagination does the rest.
But for the most part, museums need to stop relying on the supposed intrinsic value of their collections. Stop "presenting" when you should be flaunting. Give me a story. Show, don't tell.
One area in which museums have struck some form of success seems to be with children.
"Museums annually invest more than $2 billion in education programs each year," says Bell, adding that U.S. museums welcome 90 million schoolchildren each year.
Kids do seem to have a good time when pushing buttons, pulling levers and magnetizing soap bubbles (right up until they stop having a great time and turn into wailing bundles of hair and tears only a little more bored than the parents).
But where's the equivalent for adults? Why should over-16-year-olds, who still make up the significant majority of museum-goers, be subjected to stiff, dry, academia-laced presentations as if fun were a dirty word?
Where's your joy gone, museums?
I can't claim to have the answers, but I do know I expect a sense of traveling back in time when I visit a museum, of feeling like I was there while these things lived or were used, of feeling the ghosts of the past grab me by the hand and walk me around.
Instead I get a sense of a classroom made of cold granite, the only sense of life emerging from the tourists.
On the odd occasion a museum does succeed in transporting me into history, I'm ripped right back out at the end of the route by the gift shop-coffee shop-toilet triple-whammy.
Nothing subverts a museum's mission like a shiny, digitally printed banner broadcasting $4.95 replica Davids.
Are museums dull or do they do a good job? Leave your thoughts below
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of James Durston, senior producer for CNN Travel