2 Jun 2024

Kiwiana icon Pāua shell house goes digital

From Culture 101, 2:05 pm on 2 June 2024
Paua Shell House

Paua Shell House Photo: Supplied

Sarah Murray

Sarah Murray Photo: Supplied

A new generation and those who never made it as far as Bluff can now discover this country’s iconic Pāua Shell House in an online virtual tour

Fred and Myrtle Flutey attached a pāua shell to the wall of their living room, in the fishing town of Bluff in Southland, more than 50 years ago and it was the beginning of what would become a legacy. 

Over the years, more than 1000 other shells were added alongside other ornaments and the Fluteys eventually opened their homes to visitors and welcomed more than a million people. 

Following the passing of the couple, in 2007 the Flutey collection was acquired by the Canterbury Museum. It included 4000 objects, including 1234 pāua shells and the front portion of the house was recreated in a permanent exhibition. 

Built from the original plans, photographs and footage of the Flutey’s Bluff home, it has continued as a Kiwiana icon and much-loved staple of the museum. 

Paua Shell House - Canterbury Museum

Paua Shell House - Canterbury Museum Photo: Supplied

The shiny pāua, vintage carpet and retro vibes have been reimagined in a new interactive experience in Canterbury Museum’s pop-up museum at CoCA. The exhibition was captured in high definition before being taken down and put into storage in preparation for the $205 million major redevelopment of the Rolleston Avenue buildings.

The virtual tour is presented on a touch screen, displayed rather aptly, on a retro television allowing viewers to take a tour of the famous house. It includes photos, music, video and text and more importantly, it gives old and new admirers from across the country a chance to discover the Paua Shell House.

It’s the first virtual tour the museum has created. Exhibitions Christchurch Street, Bird Hall and Antarctic Gallery have been digitally captured and will be created over the next three years.

Canterbury Museum curator, Sarah Murray, spoke to Culture 101’s Perlina Lau about giving the exhibit a digital update, what visitors can expect from the pop-up museum and future plans for the Canterbury Museum as the large redevelopment continues. 

Paua Shell House

Paua Shell House Photo: Supplied