In the early 1980s Dr. Banks purchased the house where Ava lived from age 2 to 13, and operated his own Ava 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 life and is committed to preserving theses items and displaying them in an educational manner.
In August of 1999, the Museum’s board made an investment in downtown Smithfield by purchasing and renovating a 6,400 square foot building that became the permanent home for the Museum’s vast collection. In October 2000, the new Ava Gardner Museum opened its doors and has continued to draw national and even worldwide attention with approximately 12,000 visitors each year.
CLOSED SUNDAYS (beginning November 1-February 28)
Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, and Thanksgiving.
Your kids might not know exactly who Ava Gardner was (she may be before your time, too, for that matter, but your parents will know), yet they’ll probably get a kick out of a visit to the Ava Gardner Museum, located in her hometown of Smithfield. The museum was opened in 1991, a year after the actress died, as a tribute to her. Exhibits include the posters from her fifty-seven films as well as photographs that show her as a child through her years as a seductive leading lady of the 1940s and ’50s. You will find other memorabilia from her life at this unique museum, too.