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January 2009


Search January 2009




Paua shell house shines at Canterbury museum

30 Jan 2009

Recreating Bluff’s famous paua shell house as an exhibit at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch has proved a resounding success with visitors giving 100 percent positive feedback.

The replica of Fred and Myrtle Flutey’s unique paua clad home at Bluff - on New Zealand’s southernmost tip - has been visited by almost 74,000 people since the exhibit opened in July 2008.

Huge shell collection
In its original location, the couple’s house attracted hordes of visitors from all over the world, but when the Fluteys both died it seemed their huge collection of New Zealand paua (abalone) shells would be lost forever.

The museum recreation of their drive, entranceway and paua shell-lined lounge featuring more than 4000 shells has put the collection back in the public domain.

Instead of bedrooms, the museum has installed a theatre where a short film is shown about the Fluteys and their obsession with the shells.

Museum surveys show the exhibit has not only drawn capacity crowds but has also produced 100 percent positive feedback, the first time an exhibit has done so.

Controversial exhibition
The exhibition had initially created controversy when Bluff residents objected to the shell collection being moved north to Christchurch.

The Flutey family was also divided over the future of the house, and grandson Ross Bowen’s plan to remove the shells, sell the property, and loan the collection to the museum.

Canterbury Museum social history curator Sarah Whitehead said family members, even those who were initially upset about the shells leaving Bluff, had been a great help by providing photographs and stories for the exhibition.

Southern icon
Exhibitions manager Stephen Ruscoe said Southlanders were now making the journey north in droves to see Canterbury's take on the southern icon.

"Usually they make themselves known by announcing that they're from Bluff and they've come to take their shells back," he said.

"But the people who do go through almost laugh in disbelief at how accurately it's been recreated."

Fred and Myrtle's Kiwi status combined with the accessibility of the shells in Christchurch were the main reasons for the exhibit's popularity, he said.

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Related Links Pages
•  Southland regional information
Other Sites
•  Canterbury Museum website
•  Christchurch & Canterbury website


Paua Shell
New Zealand paua (abalone) shell.

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