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'Hamilton' stage show spurs local exhibits

'Hamilton' stage show spurs local exhibits

Schuyler Mansion, Albany Institute of History & Art and Fennimore Art Museum feature founding father
'Hamilton' stage show spurs local exhibits
Paintings of Alexander Hamilton, left, and Aaron Burr, on display at the Albany Institute of History & Art
Photographer: Courtesy Albany Institute of History & Art

When theater and history intermingle successfully, the result is often magical.

That’s what we’ve learned since “Hamilton” hit the Broadway stage in August of 2015, and the impact of that resounding theater production was felt at various state historic sites and museums in New York’s Capital region throughout 2016.

“Hamilton,” the story of our immigrant founding father, is still going strong in New York City, and the man himself will continue to be remembered in 2017 at the Schuyler Mansion in Albany, the Albany Institute of History and Art, and the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown.

“I knew adding on a Hamilton tour was going to be popular,” said Heidi Hill, director at the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, the place Alexander Hamilton called home for a couple of years after the American Revolution. “That wasn’t a surprise. What I didn’t know was that it would double our attendance for the year, and in July and August we tripled our attendance from the previous summer.”

The Schuyler Mansion was home to Philip Schuyler, a prominent Albanian in Colonial New York and a general during the American Revolution. Hamilton married Schuyler’s daughter Elizabeth in 1780, and the couple lived in Albany for two years before relocating to New York City.

The Schuyler Mansion is usually closed from Nov. 1 to May, but this winter season the home has been reopening on Thursdays and Saturdays because people are clamoring to know more about our first secretary of state and his wife. On Broadway, “Hamilton” is selling tickets through November of 2017 and will most likely continue to play in New York even longer. Hill and her staff at Schuyler Mansion are enjoying the ride.

“I don’t foresee things slowing down at all,” said Hill, who has a 2 p.m. Thursday tour and an 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. tour on Saturdays, all by reservation only. “How long did ‘Cats’ or ‘Phantom of the Opera’ continue to be popular? We’re expecting to be very busy in 2017.”

Meanwhile, across town at the Albany Institute of History and Art, Hamilton is also playing an encore. Exhibits on him as well as the man who shot and killed him in their famous 1804 duel, Aaron Burr, have both been extended through March 5 after originally being scheduled to be taken down Dec. 31.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in the Hamilton exhibits, and we recently got confirmation that we could keep some of the items we have on loan for a while,” said AIHA spokesperson Aine Nagy-Leader, referring to “Fellow Citizen: Aaron Burr,” and “Spotlight: Alexander Hamilton.”

One of those items is an Ezra Ames painting of Hamilton that usually resides in the president’s office at Union College.

“It’s a copy that Ames painted in 1810 of his original painting,” said Nagy-Leader. “It was given to Union by the grandson of Elizabeth because the school had such a close connection to Hamilton. Eliphalet Nott, the college president, gave the eulogy for Hamilton. It’s rarely on view, so we’re very happy to have it on display until March 5.”

At the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, “Hamilton’s Final Act” focuses on the letters between Hamilton and Burr that led to their deadly meeting in Weehawken, New Jersey on July 11, 1804.
While the museum closes on Jan. 1 for three months, “Hamilton’s Final Act” will still be around when the Fenimore opens again on April 1.

“We knew we had a treasure trove of letters pertaining to Hamilton and the duel, so we put up the exhibit this past summer,” said Michelle Murdock, director of exhibits at the Fenimore. “We’ve had a record-breaking year for visitation, and while we attribute most of that to our exhibits on Ansel Adams and Toulouse-Lautrec, the fascination with Hamilton really helped, and that’s why we’re putting up the exhibit again, with different letters, in April. They are the actual letters and we  had about 10 on display. We’re going to put them away and use some new ones that are still relevant to their duel.”

Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]

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