We thought it would be fun for our Ava Gardner Museum visitors, followers, and friends around the world to learn more about our new Museum Manager, Angelica Henry. Since starting in January 2024, she has been quickly mastering all things AGM and diving into the fascinating worlds of Ava Gardner and classic Hollywood. Despite her busy schedule, we recently had a chance to interview Angelica to find out more about her background and how she hopes to shape the AGM's future.


Angelica Henry – Show Boat

As Angelica learns more about Ava Gardner's remarkable life and career, she is also immersing herself in classic film history – with a special mission of watching Ava's entire filmography.


Tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, where did you go to school, etc.?

  • I’m originally from Sanford, Florida, but I call Winston-Salem, North Carolina home. I attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Arts Administration. I am currently enrolled at my alma mater and pursuing a Masters in Library Science with a concentration in Special Collections and Archives. I love being a student and pride myself on remaining teachable!


In what other museums or nonprofits have you worked?

  • Most recently, I was at the Weatherspoon Art Museum, a contemporary museum that focuses on American art. I had worked briefly at ‘elsewhere.’ in Greensboro, working as a Digital Archivist. Along with the Ava Gardner Museum, I currently work at the North Carolina Museum of Art as a Docent and on a research team for the Judaic Art Gallery. I worked as a drawing and painting instructor at an arts council in Greensboro – but I’d much rather talk about art than make it!


Angelica Henry & Dewey Shefield

One of the many perks of being Museum Manager is getting to connect with individuals who actually knew Ava Gardner in real life – like Ava's close family friend Dewey Sheffield.


Did you always want to work in the history field?

  • History class always bored me! I never was a history buff until I got into college, and I even hesitate to label myself as that now. I was always interested in the context that surrounded the historical canon. I’m interested in the “why”. I think learning this acts as a great entry point for people that don’t particularly revere themselves as history buffs. In my docent role, I refer to this as “spilling the tea”!


What inspired you to pursue a career as a museum professional?

  • I had an extraordinary mentor, Dr. Emily Stamey at the Weatherspoon Art Museum, who opened the door to a lot of opportunities for me. Under her mentorship, she asked if I wanted to curate an exhibition at the Weatherspoon, and it was during this process that I fell in love with museum work. I was truly enamored with the behind-the-scenes work that it took to make my first curated exhibition possible. My first exhibition, titled ‘Make My Presence Known’, explored visions of identity through the work of Nick Cave, Alison Saar and Magdalena Abakanowicz.


Angelica Henry – AGM Board Members

As she has settled into her role at the Museum, Angelica has been welcomed with open arms by AGM board members past and present.


What do you love about museums and history?

  • I believe museum space to be a framework for stories to unfold. I’m deeply interested in the art of storytelling and different ways that people choose to tell stories. A collection is very intimate and personal to the collector, it’s quite vulnerable really. Speaking broadly, I’m very curious as to why people collect objects. Why are certain objects chosen for exhibition? Who prescribes meaning to an object? Why should we care about those objects?


What interested you most about the manager role at the Ava Gardner Museum?

  • I was most interested in this role for the duties that were listed on the posting. I enjoy coordination and this role has a lot of that! I was exceptionally interested in hailing to work in Smithfield, a small town that reminded me of my own (Lewisville, NC.) I think of myself as more of a city person, so this juxtaposition was really interesting to me. I love coming to Smithfield for work. The people are charming and community oriented.


What are some of your main responsibilities with the AGM?

  • I oversee practically all of the happenings at the AGM! This goes from visitor experience, to building management, to exhibit planning, and even something as simple as buying stamps! There’s a lot that goes into this role and a lot of balls in the air at once. Fortunately, I am part of an awesome team that helps me keep those balls in the air, or picks them up when they drop!


Angelica Henry River Run Festival

Since assuming the Museum's managerial duties, Angelica has gone out into the community to share Ava Gardner's story with new audiences. In April 2024, she attended the RiverRun International Film Festival with honorary board member Lora Stocker. The two joined festival director Rob Davis for a discussion after a special screening Ava's classic musical Show Boat (1951).


What have you enjoyed most about your time so far with the AGM?

  • Every time I come to work it’s something different. It keeps me curious. This job is anything but copy and paste!


As you learn more about Ava Gardner’s life and career, what aspects have most intrigued you?

  • I’m always surprised to see how ahead of her time Ava was. If Ava was around today, you could put her in any room and she would undoubtedly fit in (and arguably more than that!) It is nothing short of empowering to work in a Museum that is dedicated to a woman’s life and legacy. 


What is/are your favorite artifact(s) in the AGM collection?

  • Hands down, my favorite artifact in the collection is part of our ‘Ava at Home’ exhibit. It’s a small, palm sized porcelain box that reads, ‘Fume, chante et bois on ne vit qu’une fois’ which translates to ‘Smoke, sing and drink you only live once.’ To me, this object best encapsulates the person that Ava truly was. In the past six months, I’ve been in the throes of Ava research and consistently, Ava’s lust for life is the common denominator. I’m comforted by how genuine of a person she was – I’ve read this through articles and oral histories. She was just a good person. 


What new programs/initiatives are you planning to implement at the AGM?

  • I’m keeping this one close to the chest (shh!) – but working diligently with the Ava Gardner Museum Team in efforts toward educational and community outreach. Stay tuned! 


Angelica Henry & Beth Cannon

Angelica has enjoyed getting to know and work with the AGM docents. While she creates a professional environment at the Museum, she also wants to foster a sense of joy and fun at the workplace – as evidenced in this moment captured with docent Beth Cannon following our recent historical marker dedication event.


What are some ways you hope to expand the reach/visibility of the AGM in the future – for the in-person and/or virtual visitors’ experience?

  • I would really like to see the Ava Gardner Museum collaborating with other museums and museum professionals. The biggest tangle for me is to decode how to get younger generations to understand just how iconic Ava was and is. She has a tremendous following online, but getting that traffic through the doors is where it gets difficult. I’ll keep this concise… but stay tuned!


Is there anything else you would like to share with our AGM community?

  • I would also like people to know that I am always open to ideas. If you have a new or lingering idea for the Museum, please don’t hesitate to reach out through email at angelica@avagardnermuseum.org or in person during your next visit the Smithfield.


Meet Our Museum Manager - Angelica Henry

Hear more from Angelica in this introductory video featuring her conversation with our former Executive Director, Lynell Seabold.