Deanna Brandenberger is a California native and recently relocated to North Carolina from Nevada, becoming the Executive Director of the museum in 2014. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in History with a minor in Archaeology from the University of Nevada, Reno and went on to receive her Master of Arts degree in History, also from UNR. Her background varies extensively in environmental services, museology, education, and the entertainment industries. Deanna previously worked as a staff archaeologist and historian in cultural resource management and also taught history and humanities at Western Nevada College. Her love of history and vintage movies are combined in her current position with the museum, and she is dedicated to helping preserve the memory of Ava for fans and those curious about movie and state history, highlighting Ava’s contribution to them. Her favorite items in the museum are the orange silk “Howard Hughes” dress currently on display and the original mockup release poster for The Barefoot Contessa which is housed in the theater. Deanna is also the Trustee of the Ava Gardner Estate and serves on the Board of Directors for the Museum as well as the Board for the Downtown Smithfield Development Committee.
Sarah Bryant-Owens is a native Floridian who moved to North Carolina in 2004 to be near family. She is a retiree from a school district and has family and friends continuing in the educational field. She has worked as a part-time docent at the museum since July 2005. She has a multitude of duties, including clerical assistance and training; however, her greatest joy is meeting guests from all over the world. She strives daily to make each person visiting the museum feel welcome and to make sure that they have a new appreciation for Ava Gardner and her amazing contribution to the world!
Sue Bunn is a native of North Carolina, born right in Johnston County- the home of Ava Gardner! Sue is currently retired from Nationwide Insurance, and she began working as a part-time docent with the museum in July 2010. Sue enjoys introducing guests to the glamor of the museum as a tribute to our favorite leading lady. She takes an active part in monitoring the conservation of the exhibit cases and loves to share her knowledge of Ava and the items we display which she believes educates our guests on the extraordinary story that started right in our own backyard. With many items to see and information to read, Sue is proud of knowing that the guests she interacts with walk away with an appreciation of Ava and a desire to see her films.
Matthew McCarthy is a Maryland native, relocating to North Carolina in 1999. He is currently working as an Executive Assistant (Intern) to the Executive Director of the Museum. A recent graduate from NC State University with a Bachelor of Arts in History, he plans to further his education and acquire a Master’s degree in Public History. Matthew is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic regarding classic film, having a great interest from a very young age. His favorite artifact in the museum is Ava’s safari jacket from the 1953 film Mogambo.
Lynell Seabold, Bookkeeper
Lynell is a native of San Diego, CA who now calls North Carolina home. She is also a proud Air Force mom. Lynell has been a full-charge bookkeeper since 2002 and is excited to join our team at AGM . Her favorite item in the museum is the "Kiddie Koop" that Ava played in as a child, which shows us the simple life that Ava lived while growing up in North Carolina.
Marisa Balatico, Docent
Marisa is an Army brat who, after having moved all over the world, is now setting down her roots in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. After graduating from Seton Hill University with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Special Education, she wants to put her background in Education to use by designing interactive, engaging educational programs for people of all ages. She is an avid museum tourist, history lover, and Golden Age Hollywood enthusiast. In her spare time, she can be found with her nose in a book and her cat in her lap. Her favorite item in the Ava Gardner Museum is Ava’s costume from East Side, West Side with Ava’s corgi’s sweater as a very close second!