But it's the museum's newest exhibit, opened just in time for Thursday's anniversary, that displays quite another set of artifacts, CBS News' Jim Axelrod reports.
Alice Greenwald, the museum's director, agrees the full story of 9/11 would not be complete without an exhibit on the tracking down of Osama bin Laden.
"That's true," she said. "And the challenge that museums have is that we convey history with stuff, with material. What we had was this terrific sign that a woman in Brooklyn had put up on her front lawn. She started doing a countdown - so many days until bin Laden is caught."
That day was May 1, 2011, when Navy SEAL Team VI stormed bin Laden's compound and killed him. A few months ago, one of those Navy SEALs visited the museum and donated the camouflage shirt he was wearing under his body armor during the raid.
"Seeing that shirt connects you to the human being who wore it and the incredible courage and, frankly, the incredible expertise that these men had to do what they needed to do," Greenwald said.
On the shoulder is a black and brown American flag; they couldn't use colors during a night raid. It's also a backward view to signify the front-line nature of their mission. It's joined by a brick from bin Laden's compound and a pair of "challenge coins" commemorating the day he died.
"These two coins came to us through the CIA agent whom most of us know because of 'Zero Dark Thirty' the movie as Maya," Greenwald said. "She donated the coins to our collection."
"I think they (the new artifacts) are a reminder of several things," Greenwald said. "One, that there are men and women out there doing extraordinarily difficult work on our behalf, and it is a recognition of the tremendous sacrifice and courage of people in so many different agencies who are literally on the front lines of fighting the war on terror."
Nearly a million visitors have seen the 9/11 museum since it opened in May. The museum will be open Thursday but only to the families of those killed 13 years ago.