Exhibit design includes many elements: the objects themselves, the labels, the exhibit case/space, placement of the object in the case, props, the resources available to you, and, of course, the story you want to tell to your audience. These elements are mutually informing so take the time to understand all the elements to help you envision your exhibit.
At the most basic, exhibits are simply a series of objects placed on display. These displays separate objects from their original context so viewers aren't necessarily able to understand the object and its nuances.
At best, exhibits weave a historical narrative through image, object, and words. These exhibits help viewers place items into a larger socio-cultural context and thus in some ways these exhibits function the same as a good research paper. The only difference is that you have limited space to strategically place objects and the most concise text to weave your narrative argument instead of 15-20 pages of text.
In other words, the amount of research and time that goes into designing and installing an impactful exhibit is just as much as it is for a full-length research paper.