‘Who lives, who dies, who tells your story’: Hamilton exhibit opens in Chicago

By Kaci Watt, Staff Reporter

Orlando Pinder
Lin-Manuel Miranda and the exhibit’s creative director, David Korins, attended a press conference and opening ceremony for “Hamilton: The Exhibition” April 26.

Today, more people have seen the musical “Hamilton” in Chicago than in New York, and a new exhibit brings the Windy City even deeper into Alexander Hamilton’s story.

“Hamilton: The Exhibition,” staged at 1535 S. Linn White Drive on Northerly Island, is an audio-guided history tour that follows the narrative of Hamilton’s life against the backdrop of the American Revolution, according to Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton” and artistic adviser to the exhibit. 

“Of course we were going to bring the exhibition to Chicago and premiere it here,” Miranda said during the April 26 opening. “It felt like a thank you to greeting us with such open arms, to give Chicago something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world—at least not yet.” 

Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot— a “rabid” fan of the musical according to the exhibit’s producer Jeffrey Seller— was asked to help launch the exhibit. 

“I truly believe that ‘Hamilton’ is an amazing way to make history interesting, not just for children but for all people of every age and every demographic,” Lightfoot told the opening night audience. 

The tickets are based on a timed entry system, where ticket holders must select the time they plan to visit at purchase; it costs $39.50 for adults, $32.50 for military members and seniors and $25 for youth ages 4–14. The exhibit is also offering free group admission to all Chicago Public School students in fourth grade and above.

Orlando Pinder
Chicago is the first stop for “Hamilton: The Exhibition.” It is located at 1535 S. Linn White Drive.

Before entering the exhibit, guests are provided a headset and handheld device that accompanies them through the exhibit and plays audio as they enter each room. There are sensors located throughout the rooms where attendees can scan their devices to hear additional information. 

The audio components are narrated by Miranda, with help from the exhibit’s Historical Advisor and Yale University Professor Joanna B. Freeman, as well as Phillipa Soo and Christopher Jackson, who played Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton and George Washington, respectively, in the original Broadway production of the show. 

Accompanying the audio guide, each section of the exhibition has symphonic versions of the songs from the musical playing in the background.  

“It’s also really interesting because we go through Hamilton’s life in order at the exhibition. [But attendees] get to hear [the song] ‘Hurricane,’ for instance—which existed deep in the second act of our show —much, much earlier,” the exhibition’s Creative Director David Korins said. 

Because of this, fans get to experience the score in a different order than they do during the show.

According to Korins, the idea for the exhibit began small with a museum partnership in mind. However, upon taking a step back, they realized it was possible to create a unique space and experience.

“We wanted to be able to sculpt each one of the very important story points of Hamilton’s life as realistically rendered and detailed as we could possibly do it,” Korins said. “This really [was] a substantial effort.”

While Chicago is currently home to the exhibit, it was designed to be transported to other cities. There are currently no concrete plans of when or where the exhibit will be traveling next, Korins said.