TV fans have a new Mecca. The Andy Griffith Museum has opened in Mount Airy, N.C. and houses the world’s largest collection of Andy Griffith memorabilia.
The museum is located next door to the Andy Griffith Playhouse, just down the street from the actor’s boyhood home. The collection was gathered by Emmett Forrest, a schoolmate and close friend of Griffith.
The collection has been displayed at various locations throughout Mount Airy but now has a permanent home which cost more than $500,000 to build.
Fans of “The Andy Griffith Show” will marvel at the memorabilia including the iconic signs from the show’s courthouse doors that read: “Sheriff” and “Justice of the Peace.” There are also mementos from Griffith’s movies and his music career.
“I’ve been collecting this for 25 years,” says Forrest. “Every piece is like one of my children. My favorite items are the signs from the courthouse doors. They identify the show. You see them in almost every episode. Another favorite item is Barney’s salt-and-pepper suit. Also, Andy gave me items from his desk and the keys to the jail, so those are very special.”
Other actors who have worked with Griffith donated items to the museum as well. Francey Knotts, widow of actor Don Knotts, donated Barney’s famous chair from “The Andy Griffith Show” and an autographed copy of the script Knotts used for the television movie, “Return to Mayberry.”
Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou on the show, also donated several items to the museum. “Anything he ever did is in that museum. It’s really a lovely tribute to Andy and a great museum for people to enjoy,” Lynn said. “I’m grateful to be a part of it.”
Tanya Jones, executive director of the local arts council, explained the site of the museum was important as well. “Andy and Emmett wanted the collection to be on this site because it had sentimental value to them,” Jones says. “And, it made sense to have the collection, the TV Land Landmark statue of Andy and Opie, and the Andy Griffith Playhouse all in one location.”
“All the folks from ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ who have seen it are thrilled. The guests and visitors who have come so far are also thrilled. When Betty Lynn happens to be there, people get tears in their eyes when they walk in the door and see her.”
The museum is open seven days a week and admission is $3 per person. Hours are: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays; and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sundays.
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