Museum Embarks On New Exhibit That Shares “The Real Ava” With The World

The Ava Gardner Museum will host the Ava Gardner Festival the weekend of May 31-June 1, 2019 at the museum and Ava’s home town of Smithfield.

For more than 30 years, the Ava Gardner Museum has welcomed visitors from around the world; inviting them to learn more about the iconic movie actress who was born in Johnston County. Over these many years, the complexity of the “real” Ava – movie star, wife, friend and advocate for civil rights – is a story that truly has not been told.

Lynell Seabold, Director of the museum commented on the exhibit and return of the festival, “The Ava Gardner Museum is very excited to bring this new and relevant side of Ava to fans and visitors with a brand new, dynamic, and modern exhibit. What a better way to debut this new exhibit then with the return of the Ava Gardner Festival; an annual and much-beloved event last held in 2014. We are excited to announce it will be making a come-back!”

The new “Ava: My Real Story” exhibit will use a new photo/video essay-style design to show visitors who Ava Gardner was as a person, not just a movie star.  For as glamorous as she was to the world, Ava’s personal side was something known well by close friends and family – as a friend she was loyal, warm, and loving, as a business woman she was direct, independent, and humble (an interesting combination). She was involved in many causes in Hollywood; early on she worked to promote War Bonds in 1942 as a young bride traveling the country with husband Mickey Rooney.  Later as she traveled with Artie Shaw’s band, she would rebel against clubs that refused to let her friend Lena Horne or her personal assistant Rene Jordan enter. These stories and more will be shared in the new exhibit which will open on Friday, May 31st.  The museum will host an opening night to unveil the exhibit, 7pm-9:30pm.

On Saturday, June 1st, the museum will hold a free screening of the movie, “The Barefoot Contessa”, which many critics say most closely aligns with Ava’s own “from-rags-to-riches” life story.  In addition, the museum will offer a heritage tour to sites related to Ava’s hometown, including her birthplace, the Teacherage where her mother Mollie was the caretaker for the Johnston County School system, Holt Lake where she attended dances, the Little Brown Jug which her brother Jack built, and Sunset Memorial Gardens where Ava’s grave site is located.

A portrait of Ava Gardner while still in high school.

Regular museum admission will be honored all weekend, with special ticket prices for the opening night reception and heritage tours to be announced soon. Area hotels are offering special rates for visitors traveling to Smithfield for the weekend.

For more information about the festival, please call the museum at 919-934-5830.  The Ava Gardner Museum is located in downtown Smithfield, at 325 E. Market Street and more information may be found on the museum website,  The museum is open throughout the year, Monday-Friday, 9:30am-4:30pm, Saturday 9am-5pm, and Sunday 2pm-5pm with admission of $10.00 adults, $9.00 seniors and groups and $6.00 children age 6-12, under 6 Free.