The Ava Gardner Museum
is located at 325 East Market Street in historic downtown Smithfield, North Carolina
and holds an extensive collection of artifacts from Ava Gardner
's career and private life.
The original collection was started in 1941 by a fan, Tom Banks, who, at age 12, met Ava on the campus of Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College
) where she was studying to become a secretary. When she did not return to school the next year, he saw a photograph of Gardner in a newspaper and learned that she had been signed to a movie contract with MGM.
The Banks devoted most of their lives to collecting memorabilia from every source imagined. In the early 1980s Dr. Banks purchased the Brogden Teacherage, the house where Ava lived from age 2 to 13, and operated his own Ava Gardner Museum during the summers for nine years. Dr. Banks suffered a stroke at the museum in August of 1989 and died a few days later. Ava died 5 months later on January 25, 1990. In the summer of 1990, Mrs. Banks donated the collection to the Town of Smithfield, being assured that a permanent museum would be maintained in Johnston County, Ava's birthplace and final resting place.
The Ava Gardner Museum was incorporated in 1996 as a 501(c)3 organization to manage and care for the Museum's collection of personal items and movie memorabilia gifted to the Town of Smithfield by Tom and Lorraine Banks. Since that time the Ava Gardner Museum Foundation has continued to acquire artifacts related to Ava's... Read More