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History Museums near Smithfield, NC

In the Smithfield, NC area museums and historical sites, history buffs will find lots of records, documents, artifacts and glimpses of daily life from 1746, when the county was founded, through recent history.

By Cyndie Todd on January 3, 2015

The Benson Museum of Local History
Smithfield / Photographer: Todd Bennett

Museums and historical sites in Johnston County and Smithfield, NC help tell the tales of the area’s past, including its agricultural roots, ties to famous movie stars and early settlers. Here’s a look at the cultural attractions that celebrate the history of Johnston County. 


The Heritage Center

At the Heritage Center in Smithfield, the county seat, patrons can access a wide range of historical government records and books written about local history and culture. Exhibits stretch from Colonial times through recent history.

The Ava Gardner Museum

The most famous Johnston County native, actress Ava Gardner is memorialized in the collection of Tom and Lorraine Banks in Smithfield’s Ava Gardner Museum. Tom knew Ava personally. After his death in 1989, Lorraine donated their extensive collection to the Town of Smithfield, where Ava’s relatives still live.  

Benson Museum of Local History

A relative newcomer on the museum scene, the Benson Museum of Local History opened in 2010 with exhibits that interpret the history and culture of the Benson community, incorporated in 1887.

Tobacco Farm Life Museum

Tobacco played a prominent role in the early settlement years of Johnston County. The internationally recognized and accredited Tobacco Farm Life Museum seeks to preserve the history and cultural heritage of farm life and the families who had pride in their past and a strong volunteer spirit.  

More Historical Sites

The Atkinson Milling Company in Selma has been milling stone-ground cornmeal since 1757. The Historic Hastings House is one of the two oldest houses in Smithfield. Civil War trail markers can be found throughout Johnston County.

Discover more attractions in Smithfield, NC.

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