The Ava Gardner Museum flooded in January, which affected almost half of the museum. Left with standing water in the front reception/gift shop area, the theatre, and all along the gallery wall and into the library, the repair and clean-up process were significant. Saturday, May 22nd, the museum reopened their doors for the first time since then!

“We were greatly saddened by the situation, but grateful that none of our artifacts were damaged due to our collections care policy of always keeping the artifacts off the floor,” said Executive Director, Lynell Seabold, “we worked diligently to repair the damage as quickly as possible. We also took this time to finalize and install two brand-new exhibits.”

The Ava Gardner Museum is reopen to the public with brand new exhibits, new and rarely seen collection items, and a fresh new look post-remodel. Many people have been hard at work to get the museum ready and both the museum staff and Ava's estate have a lot in store over the next few years. If you've never visited or it's been a while since you're last trip, now is a good time to rediscover Ava and her museum!

Ava Museum's 2021 Costume Exhibit in the Main Case

At the time of the flood and subsequent remodel, the museum was in the middle of preparation for the opening of a brand new exhibit featuring several costumes from Ava Gardner’s film and television roles. The costumes selected represent the full breadth of Ava’s acting career, which spanned five decades. Many of these costumes have not been on view in several years. Costumes in the new exhibit include those designed by noted costume designers such as Walter Plunkett and Irene Lentz. Plus, new and rarely seen items on display - clothing and jewelry items given to Ava by Howard Hughes, a chicken platter with ties to Mickey Rooney, newly acquired jewelry from the movie Pandora & the Flying Dutchman, and more! 

For those who cannot visit at this time, the Museum launched new virtual initiatives that bring the museum directly to Ava fans. The first virtual exhibit launched at the end of 2020 to coincide with the new exhibit about Ava’s 1951 film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. This virtual version gives close-up views of artifacts from Ava's personal collection, ephemera from the film's marketing, and images and videos related to the making of the film and its recent restoration. Future virtual exhibits will also launch in conjunction with each of our new 2021 exhibits.

At the beginning of 2021, the Museum also debuted a new virtual program called Ava Chats. This series features in-depth conversations between the Museum’s staff, curatorial team, board of directors, and special guests. Topics for the series span Ava’s entire life, from her humble beginnings in rural North Carolina to her relaxed final years in London. They also showcase the Museum’s vast repository of Ava’s personal and professional artifacts which include photographs, jewelry, costumes, memorabilia, papers, personal clothing, and much more. 

Ava Gardner Television Costumes in the new exhibit opening.

In addition to the wonderful news about the museum... over the last few years the Ava Gardner Trust, which protects and promotes Ava’s legacy and image globally, has been working with Legacy Talent and Entertainment. Through Legacy, the Trust recently premiered 2 Ava products in partnership with Seven Jars Distillery out of Charlotte, NC. Ava Gardner’s life was characterized by her beauty and talent on the screen, but her down-to-earth approach in her personal life, coupled with her independent spirit, endeared her to generations of fans worldwide. In many ways, she was a woman ahead of her time; not afraid to speak her mind, not one to follow the “status quo,” and not afraid to buck the system. The Ava Gardner Select Bourbon Whiskey reflects much of this character - smooth and flavorful, with just the right amount of “kick!” In addition to the whiskey, there is also a robust wine collection; the name and flavor profile of each wine in the collection was inspired by aspects of Ava's life and personality. There are 2 white wines, Beauty and the Beach and Forbidden Fruit, and 2 red wines, Contessa and Goddess.

Lastly, stay tuned in the coming months! The museum is already planning for Ava’s Centennial year in 2023. This southern starlet will be celebrating her 100th birthday on Christmas Eve of 2022 and the museum dedicated to preserving her legacy plans mark the occasion in a big way. There are many long-term plans in place that will kick off in 2022 and continue into 2023, including new exhibits, new collection items, and other big announcements.

The Ava Gardner Museum is located in Downtown Smithfield, at 325 E. Market Street, Smithfield NC, 27577, and more information may be found on the museum website,

Four bottles of wine from the Ava Gardner Signature Wine Collection, lined up on a bar in front of shelves of alcohol at Seven Jars Distillery.