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Deanna Brandenberger

Deanna Brandenberger is a California native who relocated to North Carolina from Nevada and become the Executive Director of the Ava Gardner Museum in 2014. She holds both a BA degree in History with a minor in Archaeology from the University of Nevada and an MA in History, also from UNR. Deanna previously worked as a staff archaeologist and professional 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 Gardner 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 charcoal poster for The Barefoot Contessa (1954), which is housed in the museum’s 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. She is also a member of the Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce and the Johnston County Hospitality Association.

Ten Things I Can’t Do Without

  1. Family & friends—someone once said, “Nothing is worth having if you don’t have someone to share it with.” I couldn’t agree more. Whether it is a blood relation or friends who compose your family, I feel that having a tribe of your own is so important to your development and success as a person.
  2. Pets—for me, my pets are family. I love my English bulldog to death, and my cat keeps things interesting. They are pure souls and can turn even the worst day to right again.
  3. Food—I love to try new cuisines and find out what other flavors exist out there. Sometimes I am more adventurous than others.
  4. Travel—seeing the world, the landscapes, the cultures, and diversity is so important to understanding our role within the world. Many people never get the opportunity, and so many of those who do get it overlook the big picture. It could just be the anthropologist in me, but experiencing other places, people, and practices gives me an appreciation for the bigger picture of life.
  5. History—Herodotus (the “father of history”) once said, “the only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.” He also said, “I am bound to tell what I am told, but not in every case to believe it.” Becoming a historian has been the most rewarding thing in my life to this point. I have learned that history is not always about accepting facts as they are given to you but rather studying the multitude of different facts (from conquest history to subaltern studies) and to be able to draw our own conclusions and opinions. I think this field is relevant to every other career path one could take but is often misrepresented as a regurgitation of textbooks. It is so much more!
  6. Archaeology—there is so much I miss about my previous field, a reward in “treasure hunting” for the greater good if you will. I will say that one of the few correct parallels from Indiana Jones is that “[artifacts] belong in a museum.” Now I run one of those, but I still like to keep up with the prehistoric and historic fields, and maybe one day I can indulge in some pro bono work and get my hands dirty again. There is nothing more exhilarating than digging up and touching something that hasn’t been seen by another human in 8,000 years.
  7. Books—whether it’s nonfiction, fiction, poetry, fantasy, biographies & autobiographies, or historical accounts, I like to experience the journey of going to another place when travel is impossible. Growing up with dyslexia made reading a challenge, but once I got the hang of it, I never let it go. I can safely say that I found my niche in this world thanks to the doors that a library opened up to me. You can’t discount the education that literacy provides.
  8. Film—of course I love classic Hollywood film (and Ava in particular), but there are more modern films I love as well. Spectacle and storytelling is available to the masses through cinema and there is nothing quite like seeing a film on the big screen. I love watching films in the theater and occasionally an audience will still stand and clap (particularly if an older film is playing), and it is so reminiscent of what the movie experience was in older days and what it still should be today. I am fortunate to live in the same town as the oldest running movie theater in the state of North Carolina, the Howell. They play new and old movies at discounted prices, and the theater is a wonderful resource for our citizens.
  9. Camera—I love to take photographs so that I can look back on my memories! Like many people I am a little too much of a shutterbug and I need to get out from behind the lens and remember to take in the experience more often.
  10. My iPhone—sadly, this is an unfortunate necessity. I constantly check email, social media, and phone messages, the majority for work. Running a museum and Ava’s Trust are more than full-time jobs. It is a passion, and it has to be. The love and dedication I put into my work is what helps to make the experience great for our visitors and for Ava’s fans. My reward out of this is to see what an influence she still has and the success of our nonprofit organization, preserving history for future generations and enlightening the new ones.