Although museums of all kinds continue to proliferate, they have lost the capacity to generate big ideas that characterize epistemic shifts, such as evolution, the labour theory of value, or relativity. They have become mere echo chambers for ideas proposed elsewhere. How might museums regain their capacity to generate big ideas? The development of a Tangible Turn in scholarly thinking is leading to a reinvigoration of knowledge claims derived from material things. Museums are well placed to participate in such a reinvigoration, and in some instances – notably in the natural sciences – already are. Yet to do so they must overcome the taxonomic and systematic divisions that in the nineteenth century stimulated but now inhibit creative thinking. How can disciplinary ossification associated with collection definition be overcome? Two possible models are artists' interventions and arrangement according to philosophical principles, yet neither is sufficient. Curatorial scholars should acknowledge the physical and cultural instability of tangible things, and work with these properties to combine things in revelatory ways, eschewing stable categories. This can be accomplished most effectively in museums associated with universities through collaboration among the scholarly staffs of university collections and with university faculty.