Ava Gardner Museum Floods Delaying New Exhibit Opening

by Janean Flowe
A scene from the movie The Great Sinner with Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck

(January 14th, 2021) – The Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, N.C., flooded last week 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 (as the attached photo shows) and into the library, the repair and clean-up process are expected to be significant.

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

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 Gardner’s acting career, which spanned five decades. Many of these costumes have not been on view in several years.

The exhibit includes insights into how each film impacted Ava’s career while also celebrating the role costume designers have in bringing films to life. Costumes in the upcoming exhibit include those designed by noted costume designers such as Walter Plunkett (Gone with the Wind, Show Boat, Singin’ in the Rain) and Irene Lentz (The Postman Always Rings Twice, Gaslight, The Great Sinner). The attached photo shows Ava in The Great Sinner in a scene with co-star Gregory Peck wearing the dress that will be on display.

The new exhibit will be showcased in the museum’s largest central exhibit cases, replacing two exhibits, one about Ava’s roles in Hemingway adaptations and one about her friendship with her three-time costar Gregory Peck. Shortly after the exhibit opens, a virtual version will be made available through the museum’s gift shop as an alternative to visiting in person for international Ava Gardner fans as well as those unable to travel to the museum due to the ongoing pandemic.

The flood and water damage follow what was an already trying year in which the museum had to close for many months due to COVID-19. Safety measures were put in place to ensure guest safety and the museum reopened last Fall only to now have to temporarily close once again. The museum has provided a link on their gift shop website for anyone who would like to donate; any little bit is appreciated, https://ava-gardner-museum.myshopify.com/products/donations.

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, www.avagardner.org.

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