This essay takes as a starting point the statement, ‘The engagement with materials still seems for many an antithesis of an intellectual endeavour’. The materials and the technologies involved in making objects are not often communicated in any detail in museums nor are the processes of scientific investigation and conservation that take place ‘behind the scenes’ in museums, despite the fact that they may have a profound effect on how objects are interpreted. Possible reasons for this are explored, and the growing interest in making and in science in wider society is highlighted. Using a range of examples drawn largely from the study of archaeological objects, fascinating information about materials and making that can be yielded by investigation and conservation, and that would attract many museum visitors, is explored. Examples of some recent exhibitions are reviewed, focusing on the extent to which they have portrayed both materials and making and the normally invisible processes of investigation and conservation. The essay concludes by arguing for integration of more material information in displays generally and suggests that this could be achieved by expanding the content of object labels and by making reference to the Internet.