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FAQs at the Museum

Questions about the Ava Gardner Museum:

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1. How many visitors does the Museum get each year?

Museum VisitorsThe Museum has about 10,000 visitors a year, most of which visit the Museum from March – October.


2. Do other stars visit the Ava Gardner Museum?

Other stars have visited the Ava Gardner Museum. Virginia Mayo, film star of the 40’s, visited the museum in 1990. In 1992, Gregory Peck, film legend and lifelong friend of Ava’s, visited the museum during a break while filming a television movie in Raleigh.  Gregory Peck was also the Honorary Board Chair of the Ava Gardner Museum until his death in 2003.  In 2004, Mickey Rooney visited the Ava Gardner Museum with his seventh wife. Mickey was in town to perform at the nearby Paul A. Johnston Auditorium.


3. Why does the family Bible say Ava was born in 1923 when Ava was born Christmas Eve 1922?

In many rural areas, the Family Bible was seen as an official record, as much as any birth or death record filed with the county. In all of the excitement of the birth and the Christmas season, Ava’s birth was not noted until after the first of the year, at which time a family member made a mistake and recorded the current year "1923."


4. Is Smithfield, NC Ava Gardner’s hometown?

Ava was born and raised in a small community, called Grabtown, 8 miles east of Smithfield, NC. Grabtown (or Brogden, as the area is now referred) was nothing more than a crossroads with a general store and the local cotton gin. Smithfield was the nearest town and where the Gardners would go for household items or for entertainment, like watching movies at the Howell Theater.


5. Where is her "birthplace?" Can I go visit it?

Ava Gardner was born at 740 Avenue Road in the Grabtown area of the Brogden community, 8 miles southeast of Smithfield. As a toddler, she climbed out onto the porch roof and had to be coaxed back into the house with the promise of a bowl of peaches. Today the home is owned by the Allen family and is their private residence. Visitors may drive by the home and take photos, but please do not disturb the Allen family by knocking on their door!


6. Where is Ava Gardner buried?

Ava Gardner requested that her remains return home to be laid to rest along side her parents and siblings. Ava’s gravesite is located one mile from the museum at Sunset Memorial Park, at the intersection of Highways 70 Business and 210.


7. Did Ava ever visit the Museum?

While visiting Ava in London in 1978, Tom Banks, the original owner of the Ava Gardner collection, discussed donating the collection to an institution such as Columbia University, but Ava suggested the collection belonged in her home state. In the early 1980s Dr. Banks purchased the Brogden Teacherage, the house where Ava lived from age 2 to 13, and operated his own Ava Museum during the summers for nine years. During a visit to Johnston County, Ava visited the Museum with her sisters but found it to be locked. Someone said "We’ll get someone to come open it!" but Ava told them not to worry. "I already know everything that’s in there. I’ve lived it."


8. Does Ava have family still in the Smithfield area?

Ava has a niece, several nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, and cousins who still live in Johnston County. Two family members are on the Museum Board of Directors, and the family has long supported the Ava Gardner Museum and its mission.


9.  Why did Ava never meet Bert Pfeiffer?

Ava was aware of the paintings Bert Pfeiffer had created of her and corresponded with Mr. Pfeiffer.  However, Ava cherished her privacy and never particularly enjoyed meeting or interacting with her fans. 


10.  Why did Bert Pfeiffer put the unusual items in his paintings of Ava?

No one knows why Mr. Pfeiffer chose to include unique and unusual items in his paintings.  We can only guess it was his artistic license and creativity!


11.  How is the Ava Gardner Museum funded?

The Ava Gardner Museum is a private, non-profit and is largely funded by admission and gift shop sales.  In addition to these, the Museum holds an Annual Ava Gardner Festival that raises funds for the Museum, as well as receives various grants throughout the year to fund programs and exhibits.  As the Ava Gardner Collection is owned by the Town of Smithfield, the Town of Smithfield also contributes to the funding of a full-time executive director that acts as steward of the collection and the Museum.


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