It’s hard to believe that until recently most Americans knew Alexander Hamilton mainly as the guy on the $10 bill. But with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster Broadway musical about the life of the Founding Father sold out for months, netting Grammys and Tonys left and right, and even a Hamilton-themed beer, 2016 is shaping up to be all-Hamilton, all the time. Now, the New-York Historical Society has declared this bathing suit season to be the “Summer of Hamilton,” and is celebrating accordingly with a new exhibition of rarely seen objects, artworks and historical artifacts from his life.
Inspired by the wild success of Miranda’s musical, the New-York Historical Society’s new exhibit explores Hamilton’s connection to the Big Apple and his role in shaping the foundations of the United States. The exhibition will include objects that originally belonged to Hamilton, such as his writing desk, and recreations of the pistols he and his rival Aaron Burr used in their 1804 duel, Jennifer Schuessler writes for the New York Times.
“We never could have expected that Hamilton, the man, would have captured the popular imagination in the way that he has,” Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, said in a statement. “Now admirers of the Broadway hit and those interested in learning more about one of New York City’s most influential citizens can decide for themselves, as the show says, ‘who lives, who dies, who tells your story.’”
A particular highlight of the summer-long exhibition is the inclusion of many of Hamilton’s personal documents. Among the collection that the New-York Historical Society will have on display are a letter that Hamilton wrote to his colleague Thomas Jefferson in 1800 declaring his support for Jefferson’s presidential campaign, and documents outlining the bones of a federal government that Hamilton presented during the Constitutional Convention, Schuessler reports.
The exhibition doesn’t just focus on Hamilton’s political career. It also highlights letters and documents that provide insights into his personal life, from his love letters to his then-fiancee Elizabeth Schuyler to an infamous pamphlet where Hamilton admitted to having an affair with Maria Reynolds in one of the country’s first sex scandals, Nicole Levy reports for DNAinfo. The museum will also feature documents that shed light on what his colleagues, friends, and family thought of Hamilton – both the good and the bad.
In keeping with its inspiration, the “Summer of Hamilton” will also include all sorts memorabilia and behind-the-scenes looks at Miranda’s musical. The museum will show off two life-sized bronze statues of Hamilton and Burr prepared to duel that were displayed in the lobby of the Public Theater during the musical’s original off-Broadway run. Throughout the summer, the museum is also hosting lectures, activities and a pay-what-you-will screenings of the musicals that inspired Miranda, like Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar, the museum wrote in a statement.
This isn’t the first time the museum has honored Hamilton’s place in American history. In 2004, the New-York Historical Society produced a $5 million exhibit called “Alexander Hamilton: The Man Who Made Modern America,” Schuessler reports. Ironically, she notes that at the time, it drew criticism from some historians who felt that the exhibit overplayed Hamilton’s role in forming the foundations of the U.S.
Sticking with the exhibit’s patriotic theme, the “Summer of Hamilton” starts on July 4 – just eight days before the 212th anniversary of Hamilton’s fatal duel with Burr.