Brilliant, erratic man resurrected in exhibit

 - Photo by Jeff Primozich/For the Review

Lizzie Martinez

Packed in heavy, black boxes, the most comprehensive exhibit ever assembled on Alexander Hamilton arrived at Nicholson Library in February.

Since then, the exhibit’s panels have lined the main entrance of the library, educating more than 500 students, faculty and community members about the mysterious and often misunderstood historical figure.

“(This exhibit) makes the story of Alexander Hamilton come alive,” Library Director Susan Barnes Whyte said. “It’s fun to watch Linfield students pause.”

Whyte arranged for three speakers to visit campus and discuss Hamilton. The final speaker, and the most interesting according to Whyte, will be Seth Cotlar, associate professor of history at Willamette University. He will present “Why did the Democrats of the 1790s hate Alexander Hamilton so much?” on April 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the Austin Reading Room of               the library.

First, James Basker, professor of literary history at Barnard College, presented a lecture on March 6 on antislavery writers in Hamilton’s era. A month later, Barbara Oberg, professor of history at Princeton University, presented “Mr. Jefferson’s Alexander Hamilton.”

Whyte said if students know anything about Hamilton, it is that he died in a duel with Aaron Burr and appears on the $10 bill.

Several professors, including Professor of Modern Languages Peter Richardson, have incorporated the exhibit into assignments and class lectures.

In his Inquiry Seminar “Language Matters,” Richardson assigned students to study each panel for specific facts, then write a short, informal reflection.

Freshman Roland Mason discussed the use of  language then and now in Hamilton’s writings.

Mason said Hamilton led an interesting life and discovered Hamilton started a preschool for African children in the United States.

“None of us really knew much about Hamilton,” Mason said. “Without this assignment, I would have glanced at (the exhibit), but not nearly as in depth.”

Whyte wrote a grant to secure this opportunity for Linfield in January of 2005. In the fall, the collection began its ambitious and exclusive tour around the United   States   and   the   Virgin Islands.

Whyte attended two days of training in New York state where she learned how to pack and unpack the panels, effectively market the display and develop interesting events centered                     around Hamilton.

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