Paua shell house on exhibition in new Canterbury home

  • 03/07/2008

When Fred and Myrtle Flutey of Bluff died, a bitter furore ensued over their beloved paua shell collection.

They were bought by grandson Ross Bowen, and after negotiations to keep them in Bluff fell through, Mr Bowen gifted them to the Canterbury Museum.

That decision was met with outrage from Bluff locals and some members of the Flutey family.

But could the museum's exhibition heal old wounds?

For Mr Bowen and his mother Marie, it was a sort of homecoming. Back in his grandparents' and her parents' famous paua shell lounge, albeit over six hundred kilometres north.

"(It's) very emotional coming back into the room," says Ms Bowen. "It's like coming back home again, and they've done such a great job of it, and I think mum and dad earned this, you know."

For 40 years Fred and Myrtle Flutey showed around 1 million visitors through their home in Bluff.

Now Mr Bowen and his mother are the first official visitors to the icon's new incarnation.

This is not just nostalgia for Mr Bowen, it is a sigh of relief after all the turmoil over the shells' future.

The matter has been put to rest here, and his grandparents' collection has been born anew.

"I'm incredibly pleased with the job that's been done, amazing, very satisfying," says Mr Bowen. "It's the end of a journey for me, very pleased."

The deal Mr Bowen struck with the museum was to set up a replica of his grandparents lounge, but the museum has gone beyond expectations.

"To us it was really important that people could enter in through the front door like they would've in Bluff into Fred and Myrtle's home and on into their lounge," says curator Sarah Whitehead.

It has been a year in the planning, with every detail given its due.

"We were lucky enough to have the architectural plans to the house, so we based the room on those plans," says Ms Whitehead.

"What you see on display here has all been recreated based on about 40-50 photographs taken of the lounge in late 2006 – everything from the shells to the tiniest badge to the flowers to the stones."

Fletcher Construction built the house for free. The windows were from a wreckers' yard, but the lead light features are exact replicas of the originals.

The new owners of 258 Marine Parade have given the museum extra  like the carpet and the seals.

"I think that particularly this (house) speaks a lot about contemporary culture, popular culture – what people see as important to being New Zealanders," says Ms Whitehead.

It is a slice of Kiwiana that has been preserved for future generations.

Ms Bowen believes Fred and Myrtle would have been happy at the new house.

"I'm sure they will, I'm very sure they will, as long as there are people coming through that door that's all they'd ask," she says.

Mr Bowen has no regrets about bringing the shells to Canterbury.

"It'll be available for so many more people, and especially the children," he says. "That gives me a lot of joy to think about the fun and joy they'll have from it."

It may be a museum piece now, but time will never stand still for Fred and Myrtle's famous paua shells.

source: newshub archive