“[There are] countless small shrines in the hometowns or the adopted towns of native sons and daughters who went away to become famous, though some of the stars are barely remembered today. These museums are mostly special for their focus and usually reflect an undying care for their subjects by true keepers of the faith….
“In 1996, the little town of Smithfield, N.C., bought the extensive collection of Ava Gardner memorabilia from a childhood acquaintance of the actress, who lived for about 10 years of her childhood in the rural eastern North Carolina town. A movie siren of the 1940s and 1950s who was married for several tumultuous years to Frank Sinatra, Gardner died in 1990.
“ ‘There is no question that part of having the museum is economic development, bringing people to our town, at least for a little while,’ said Todd Johnson, the museum’s executive director. ‘But movie channels like Turner Classics now give another generation a sense of who Ava was, so I think people enjoy having a museum to see her things.’ ”
Most recently the Gardner Museum has installed a “Hemingway’s Heroine” exhibit, showcasing her roles in three movies based on Ernest Hemingway’s fiction.
I do wish the museum had been able to assemble its souvenir hand fans without stapling Ava’s classic countenance.