Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, NC

Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, NC
Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, NC

Call it a crush, fascination or a healthy obsession. Whatever it was, one man’s lifetime of collecting things connected to Ava Gardner paved the way for the Ava Gardner Museum now on display for the world to see.

Gardner, born in nearby Grabtown, N.C., appeared in more than 60 films and was a true starlet of the Silver Screen. The museum devoted to her was founded by Thomas M. Banks, a publicist who spent 50 years collecting things she'd worn, touched or appeared on screen with.

The museum, which moved to Smithfield in 2000, is now a 6,400-square-foot homage to one of Hollywood's leading ladies. The Ava Gardner Museum is visited by about 12,000 people each year and includes such items as an engraved gold watch Gardner gave to Frank Sinatra when they were married, costumes, dresses and portraits of Gardner painted by Bert Pfeiffer.

Read about more cultural museums in Smithfield, NC.

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