Lin-Manuel Miranda admits that pieces of history were lost in the making of his Broadway musical sensation, “Hamilton.”
“I’m a playwright,” he said on a recent trip to Chicago to open Hamilton: The Exhibition. “I’m trying to give you as much of Hamilton’s story as I can fit in 2 1/2 hours, the time you have spent with us in the theater, I mean I’m also trying to make it all rhyme, so that, by necessity, leaves a lot on the cutting room floor.”
The missing parts of Hamilton’s life, the feeling of the era in American History and the weight of Hamilton’s involvement in the shaping of the government are all covered and more in the newest exhibition on Northerly Island.
“You can go through this and just be surrounded by the music,” Miranda says. “You can go through this and learn about slavery in the Caribbean in Hamilton’s time in St. Croix. You can learn about the role of women in the Revolutionary War, it’s a chance to go down all of those avenues we can’t go through in a linear fashion (in the play).”
Hamilton: The Exhibition is in a 35,000 square foot building created specifically for the exhibit. The lobby is 10,000 square feet to house attendees waiting to enter in case of early arrival for the timed tickets. The entire exhibition can be broken down and carted off to its next location in 80 trucks.
The Exhibition is recommended for fifth graders and older, those most likely to have a grasp on the time period. Take your time to see the exhibition and go at your own pace. The timed tickets only ensure that small groups enter together. Watch for the intersection of Hamilton’s life plus historical context, giving a chance to get a better impact of what the timeline means in the history of America.
Don’t let the fact that some pieces of the exhibit are out of order from the cast album fool you: history was altered to tell a good story. You might have heard “Hurricane” in the second act of the musical, but the event actually occurred early in Hamilton’s life and the exhibition follows his life chronically.
An audio tour included in your ticket. Miranda, Christopher Jackson (who played George Washington in the original cast), Phillipa Soo (who originated the role of Hamilton’s wife, Eliza Schuyler Hamilton), actress Olga Merediz (who worked with Miranda on his musical “In the Heights” and narrates in Spanish) and historian Joanne B. Freeman will be in your ear through the exhibition. Walk into a room and one will start talking, thanks to the magic of wireless technology.
Look out for additional audio tracks scattered across the exhibition that allow a museum-goer to “click to hear more” and the track is automatically connected to their headset device. You are then able to learn more about the geography of Boston when Hamilton arrived or about the role of women, slaves and Native Americans in the Revolution.
There are so many details throughout the exhibit that bring Hamilton’s history to life. For example, the distance between Aaron Burr and Hamilton in the duel room is the same as the distance when the two met in Weehawken, N.J., in 1804. Put your family members in the two men’s shoes to judge the distance for yourself. Plus, you’ll be amazed by the technology. The Battle of Yorktown, for example, sets a high bar for future museums and exhibitions to clear.
While you don’t necessarily have to be knowledgeable of the original Broadway musical to enjoy the exhibition, huge “Hamilton” fans will love how much the musical intertwines with this history lesson. The score has been remastered to play instrumentally from room to room. Take photos of your favorite lyrics illuminated such as “I wrote my way out” or “I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory.” Keep your eye out for some other fun facts and Easter eggs throughout the exhibit.
The gift shop in the entryway of the exhibition is a perfect way to bone up on both history and the play. With gifts for all price ranges and sizes — baby and toddler clothes included ‚ fans of the man, the musical or the time period can pick up books, T-shirts, shot glasses, socks, umbrellas and beach towels. For an extra $10, it can all be carted away in an official tote bag.
Eat Food and drinks are not allowed inside the exhibition, but they are allowed in the lobby where drinks and quick-service food is available. There are tons of options to picnic along the way when the weather is summer appropriate, so if you bring food in advance, be ready to be done before you enter or dine after. There are also no restrooms once inside the exhibition — those are available in the lobby — so be prepared before your timed ticket allows you and your family in.
If you go
$25 ages 4-14, $39.50 15 and older.
Timed tickets allow entry every half hour from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. The exhibit takes approximately 90 minutes to view.
Recommended for ages 10 and up
Shuttles are available from Museum Campus and Soldier Field. Check special exhibitions and football game days before arrival to ensure parking availability.
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