With North Carolina still firmly in Phase II of the state reopening plan, museums in Johnston County have been closed since March. The JCVB has worked to inform both visitors and the community on virtual events that many of our museums have put in place to continue to share their collection, and educate the public.

In this week’s blog we’d like to update you on some of the behind the scenes work that our museums have done in preparation for opening (hopefully soon), programs and social efforts they are planning or have in place, and even some assistance they’ve sought to help them stay afloat in a time when they cannot be open to physical visitation.


Ava Gardner

The Ava Gardner Museum has been very active on social media. Using the time afforded them due to the shutdown to ramp up their social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They’ve done posts about online Ava puzzles, new and informative blog posts, video tours of the museum, and even a series of A-Z posts featuring collection items. The museum has also been hard at work on a major rebuild of the Ava Gardner website. Take a look at the brand new home for all things Ava here, including facts, blog posts, quotes, images, and more! 

Museum Director, Lynell Seabold recently spoke to Smithsonian Magazine about everything the museum has been doing to remain busy during COVID and to plan for a time when they can be operational again.  

The museum has been relying on online orders from the gift shop, and the occasional donations. However, they just received a $50,000 grant from the IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services) to continue their Collections Care and Management project. Which means that whether anyone can currently view it or not, the museum will continue to be able to preserve and protect their extensive collection of memorabilia from Ava and her contemporaries. They also received a $1,000 media grant to help with advertising from the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce.

The exterior of the Johnston County Heritage Center located in Downtown Smithfield, NC.

Heritage Center

The Johnston County Heritage Center has also closed to the public, but they are hosting an important virtual education series called “Re-examining Racism”. It is a YouTube video series with interviews from experts discussing the historical context of current issues. The first was in February (Black Voter Suppression), the second was in August (Racism in Health Care), and the upcoming sessions will be September 10 (Racism in the Criminal Justice System), and October 8 (Racism in Education). The August session is on their YouTube channel, with more to follow.

The Heritage Center is also planning to take their annual, and historically very well attended, Ghost Walk virtual this year. The actors representing this year’s historical figures will be filmed performing their parts and the video will premiere on the center’s YouTube channel.

Tobacco Farm Life Museum

While closed the Tobacco Farm Life Museum staff have been busy working on grants, exhibits, and programs. The staff has also been working on increasing the museum’s social media resources and educational materials.  They have created several videos that are accessible on YouTube. These and other materials are available on their website.

In addition, the museum just recently completed the AgCamp in a Box Program, sponsored by Duke Energy, which provided students with educational projects and programs and included an impact project.  The impact project was designed and built by Eden Revels of Heritage Girls to complete her Stars and Stripes program.  Ms. Revels built and supervised the Kenly Girl Scout Troop in placing the music item onto the two Music Walls.  The walls (one pictured below) will be available for students to explore on their next trip to the museum.  

A blue board with historical musical instruments tacked on for display.

The museum also recently announced that they were the recipients of a $15,000 NC CARES: Humanities Relief Grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council. The NC CARES Grant offers operational support to the museum in order to fund staff and maintain the operation of the museum’s gallery building so that the museum can continue to carry out its mission to preserve and present the history of the rural farming community.

Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site

The Bentonville Facebook page is the most up to date place for information; the site is posting weekly schedules of events happening at Bentonville. Their social media is also a great place to find the live and pre-recorded educational videos the staff has been posting over the last few months while they were closed to visitors.

However, Bentonville is once again open to the public. Daily talks are offered hourly outside the Harper House (though the house is closed to visitors) and topics range from the Harper family to witness spotlights to medical practices to activity at specific spots on the battlefield. In addition, Bentonville has many miles of hiking trails that outdoor adventurers and history buffs can enjoy. Or, attend one of the daily guided family walks or 2 hour guided battlefield walking tours offered. The staff has set-up an outdoor classroom and information table to greet guests even though the exhibits and visitors center is closed. The bathrooms and the picnic area are open. Bentonville asks that all visitors wear a mask and practice social distancing. Also, they recommend you bring your own water bottle(s) as all water fountains are turned off.


The JCVB will continue to keep you informed as our museums are allowed to open back up; be sure to keep checking the #JoCoStrong Page for information as we know it.

Civil War trail marker at Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site, Four Oaks, NC.