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- $7 for admission for two (up to a $14 value)
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Along with more than 20,000 artifacts from the actress's career and personal life, the museum houses special exhibits focusing on topics such as her fashion and homes. Memorabilia in the temporary shows include an orange silk dress from Howard Hughes and the brass lions that greeted visitors at one of her Spanish homes.
Ava Gardner Museum
Ava Gardner was studying to be a secretary at the Atlantic Christian College when 12-year-old Thomas Banks met her while playing at the school's campus in 1940. A year later, the young boy learned his friend had signed a movie contract with MGM to become a movie star. From then on, he collected newspaper clippings and memorabilia tracing her film career, from her breakout role in 1946's The Killers to her lauded work in 1953's Mogambo with Clark Gable. Tom and Ava remained friends over the years, and, at her request, he unveiled his collection—more than 50 years in the making—in 1979 in Smithfield, her birthplace and eventual resting place.
Tom amassed more than 20,000 artifacts from Ava's career and private life, which now, among other pieces, fill the 6,400-square-foot Ava Gardner Museum. Among movie posters and awards stand the silk satin cape that Ava wore in publicity shots for The Barefoot Contessa and the black dress she donned in The Great Sinner. Her personal items include china, jewelry, 40 portraits of her by Bert Pfeiffer, and the engraved watch she gave to her third husband, Frank Sinatra. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum celebrates the starlet with its annual Ava Gardner Festival, which includes screenings of her classic films and heritage tours.
First-rate orientation film, very well-done exhibit with plenty to see, and an interesting story about one of Hollywood's true and natural beautiesGboNC, TripAdvisor, 6/24/12
Every display is very professionally put together and a loving tribute to Ava. It is a mixture of her personal life and her movie career.Melissa G, TripAdvisor, 4/24/12