Fred and Myrtle’s Paua Shell House brought back as virtual tour

The interior of Fred and Myrtle’s Paua Shell House in Canterbury Museum in 2018. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The interior of Fred and Myrtle’s Paua Shell House in Canterbury Museum in 2018. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Fred and Myrtle’s Paua Shell House is back as a virtual tour.

The new interactive experience means visitors to Canterbury Museum can once again enjoy the polished pāua shells, vintage carpet and retro glory of this Kiwiana classic.

The much-loved exhibit was digitally captured in high definition before it was taken down and carefully put into storage last year ahead of the major redevelopment of the museum’s Rolleston Ave buildings.

The virtual tour is presented on a touch screen housed in a suitably retro television built especially for the display.

The tour is also available on the museum’s website.

More than 50 years ago, Fred and Myrtle Flutey attached a pāua shell to the living room wall of their home in the fishing town of Bluff at the bottom of the South Island.

Over the years, they added more than 1000 pāua shells to the walls and collected an amazing array of New Zealand ornaments.

The couple opened the doors of their home to visitors, welcoming more than a million people over the years to the Paua Shell House as it became known.

They greeted all their visitors in person, sharing stories about their collection and their passion for pāua.

In 2007, some years after the couple died, the Flutey Collection of more than 4000 objects, which includes 1234 pāua shells, came to Canterbury Museum. Fred and Myrtle’s Paua Shell House opened at Canterbury Museum the following year.

The front portion of the house was re-created in the museum from the original plans of the Fluteys’ Bluff home and from photographs and footage of the couple’s living room.

The Paua Shell House will return in the redeveloped museum. In the meantime, the virtual tour allows this popular attraction to be enjoyed.

The virtual tour includes photographs, music, video and text to re-create the full Paua Shell House experience.

Museum director Anthony Wright said it was important to capture the Rolleston Ave exhibitions before the redevelopment started.

"They’re an important part of the museum’s history which needed to be recorded for our archives.

"We’ll need visual access to many of the former Rolleston Ave displays as we develop the visitor experience for the new museum.

"Some of these much-loved exhibitions will return in the new museum — the Christchurch Street and Paua Shell House for example — and others like the Antarctic Gallery and the Bird Hall will be reimagined.

"We hope that they will continue to delight and surprise museum visitors for decades to come."