‘Hamilton Was Here’: The ‘Year of Hamilton’ Brings a New Interactive Exhibit to Museum of the American Revolution
This interactive new Hamilton exhibit connects the Founding Father’s life and work to Philadelphia.
Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now. This is truly Philly’s “Year of Hamilton.” We’ve studied his historical conflicts at the Constitution Center, subscribed to the Kimmel Center’s season to get our hands on some 2019 Hamilton seats, and now the Museum of the American Revolution is getting in on the young, scrappy, and hungry fun with its new interactive exhibit opening this weekend!
“Hamilton Was Here: Rising Up in Revolutionary Philadelphia,” opening October 27, highlights different aspects of Alexander Hamilton’s political rise around Philadelphia, including serving as an officer in Washington’s Continental Army, helping craft our Constitution, and charting our nation’s financial future as the first Secretary of the Treasury. The exhibit is highly interactive, incorporating games, group activities, dress up, thought-provoking questions, and much more– and it is a must-do for any Hamilton fan in your family!
Do Not Throw Away Your Shot
Join the Continental Army under General George Washington, and work together, following the footprints on the floor to load a full-size replica bronze cannon. This section of the exhibit tells about Hamilton’s military service, including when he served as John Laurens’s second in his first duel, which took place in what is now Port Richmond in Philly.
History Has its Eyes on You
Philadelphia “was a place where an immigrant like Hamilton could think in national terms” and see his vision more clearly, explained Pedro A. Ramos, President and CEO of The Philadelphia Foundation; who described how exciting it was to see kids experiencing the new exhibit and consider the issues, decisions, and choices that went into forming our government. “The future of our nation depends on the citizens we create today,” Ramos said.
In the exhibit’s section dealing with Hamilton’s role in creating the Constitution, kids can literally “balance the powers” on a scale with blocks that have various state and national powers on them, and consider the compromises that went into these decisions. They can also sit in a reproduction of the “Rising Sun” chair to experience the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
The Room Where it Happens
In addition to serving as President Washington’s Treasury Secretary, Hamilton also managed his time and image, including the creation of presidential levees, or weekly opportunities for citizens to meet with the president. Step inside a recreation of the state dining room of the President’s House (which was located on Market Street), dress up in period clothing, and learn the protocol of formally greeting the president—students visiting the preview had fun working on their curtsy, and debating whether “bowing” to a president was too monarchial. You can also stand or sit at one of the mirrors for a special selfie with Washington.
The Ten-Dollar Founding Father
As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton created the First Bank of the United States (which is located across the street from the museum!), and within a reproduction of that bank, you can learn about Hamilton’s economic plans—from debt to industry. Play a Battleship-inspired tabletop game to “Stop the Smuggler!” or design a coin on a big felt board.
Who Tells Your Story?
“Without Philadelphia, Alexander Hamilton might not have been the Alexander Hamilton we know today – his experiences in the city shaped his vision for the nation,” said Dr. Philip Mead, Chief Historian and Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Museum.
As you finish the exhibit, reflect on how Philadelphia changed Hamilton, and vote on the wall about what you think was Hamilton’s most important accomplishment in Philadelphia.
Take the fun with you by grabbing a Flat Hamilton and a special Map and Activity Guide on your way out, then take pictures around Philly at the spots that are highlighted in Hamilton’s life. Tag them with #HamiltonWasHere and they will be featured on the wall within the exhibit!
Wait For It, Wait For It
In addition to the exhibit, which runs through March 17, 2019, the museum also has several “Year of Hamilton” events planned, including hands-on family artisan workshops, Winter Break programming, walking tours, talks, and much more.
Most notably, they are launching a series of author talks for kids and teens called “Write the Revolution,” where historical fiction authors will speak about their books, as well as the process of writing about historical figures. This is a great opportunity for kids who are interested in writing or history to learn from experts about the work incorporating both fields.
On January 13, the museum will launch the young reader’s edition of Never Caught, an adaptation of Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s book about Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave. Dunbar and Kathleen Van Cleve will be at the author talk, and a book signing will follow. On March 3, author L.M. Elliott will lead a talk and book signing for teens about the Schuyler sisters! Her book focuses on Peggy—who in the play, decidedly gets the least attention of the three sisters—and highlights her Revolutionary life.
“Hamilton Was Here: Rising Up in Revolutionary Philadelphia” will run from October 27, 2018–March 17, 2019 at the Museum of the American Revolution, located at 101 South Third Street in Philadelphia. The experience is open on weekends from 10 am–5 pm and weekdays from 1 – 5 pm; and is included with regular admission to the museum. Tickets are $19 for adults and $12 for kids ages 6 — 17 (kids 5 and under are free).
Photographs by Laura Swartz.