Update 02 July 2012 - Museum reopened
Parts of Canterbury Museum have reopened. See below why it was closed in April.
The Museum has reopened areas of the building that are well above the new building code. These are the Mountfort Gallery (decorative arts and costume) and Maori galleries, as well as the Early European Settlement display, the Victorian Museum room, the Christchurch Street and Canterbury Quakes exhibition. The remaining galleries, including Discovery and the Museum Cafe, will stay closed pending further engineering peer review assessments. Museum director Anthony Wright said that the Museum aims to be fully open to the public by August 2012.
Update 17 April 2012 - Museum closed
Canterbury Museum had received only minor damage in the earthquakes and reopened in late 2011. We went back to the Paua House, a great exhibition of Wearable Art and a fantastic display of "Hearts for Christchurch" that had been sent to the city from all over the world after the earthquakes. To everyone's surprise came the announcement yesterday that the museum would be closed until further notice due to safety concerns. The engineers and now reviewing and peer-reviewing - and in fact probably doing nothing more than covering their a**es after the horrible failure of some engineers who gave other buildings in the city their stamp of approval, made shonky safety checks after the initial earthquake on 4 September 2010, and many of those buildings collapsed on 22 February 2011 and killed people.
But well, we cannot help it. The whole earthquake recovery is getting worse than the earthquakes have been - except for the people, of course, who have lost loved ones in poorly and only superficially checked buildings.
This museum has something for everyone, how different the interests might be. I often go there to widen my knowledge about birds and recognise them more easily in the wild. The collection on the first floor is huge.
Although I prefer living birds those stuffed animals which hopefully all died a natural death have the big advantage that they do not fly away while you study their looks and feathers ;-) You will see many of them when you travel through the country and you will be pleased to recognise some of them, from the little fantails and silvereyes to the petrels, gannets and albatrosses. And, of course, the national bird, the kiwi. Just not the moa - a giant running bird like the emu and the ostrich, just much bigger. It has been extinct by moa hunters and Maori before the arrival of the European settlers.
I also like to stroll though the section with the Victorian streets of Christchurch, the old means of transportation. You can learn a lot about Maori life and history, as well as the big discovery tours to Antarctica. The cold continent plays a big role in Christchurch, as it has the International Antarctic Centre, and the ships to Antarctica start their journey at Lyttelton Harbour.
The museum is also a great place to learn more about ecology and waste, with many interesting and sometimes surprising interactive displays.
Additionally they have changing programmes and special exhibitions, so there is always something new to explore.
The museum is free of charge but donations are expected. Entry to "Discovery" is $2. Guided 1hr tours on Tuesday and Thursday (3.30pm) are free.
You enter through a nice souvenir shop which has an especially nice choice of art tiles. The café on level 4 has a tree-top view of the Botanic Gardens.
Museum hours (daily except Christmas Day):
9am - 5.30pm (Oct-Mar)
9am - 5pm (Apr-Sep)
There is a free guided tour in the Christchurch museum at the moment relating to the photography exhibition there. I'm looking forwards to going and meanwhile would like to say what a wonderful place the museum is with many different historical and more contemporary exhibitions, galleries and reconstructions. I really recommend it especially if it is raining and there is a great cafe upstairs too with views over the botannical gardens.
There has been a lot of controversary about the Paua House in Bluff. Since early July the interior has found a new home 609 kilometres away from home – in a replica of the house in Canterbury Museum in Christchurch. It is just fantastic – and worth a visit of its own, even if you are not interested in museums normally. The Paua House is a piece of Kiwiana, and remains in Christchurch for at least ten years.
The story I wrote for my newspapers (in German, of course, in a more sophisticated language – I translated it for all of you, say thank you ;-)
Fred and Myrtle Flutey had an open home for 37 years, from 1963 until 2000. Every day from 9am to 5pm the couple welcomed visitors from all over the world in their house in Bluff, New Zealand’s southernmost town, about one million in all those years. In 1990 the national tourist board awarded them a certificate of merit for their extraordinary hospitality.
The Fluteys did not live in an ordinary house by the sea. The walls in the hall were covered in pennants. Thousands of kitsch items were crammed into a display cabinet. Und then there was this lounge. The walls are plastered with about 1200 hand-sized paua shells. They shimmer in all shades of blue and green, purple, pink, rose and bronze. The gaps are filled with paua necklaces, paua dolls, paua ships, paua plates. This unique salmagundi of kitsch objects is completed by silk flowers in paua vases, photos in paua frames, garden gnomes, huge mussels, porcelain swans and fish, all exhibited on side tables, on the mantlepiece, the floor and in a basin decorated with paua shells. In total more than 4000 items fill the room, including the paua shells, also called abalone, which you only find in the waters around New Zealand.
Many New Zealanders shed a tear when Myrtle Flutey died at the age of 89 in May 2000 and Fred on 31 December 2001, nine days before his 98th birthday. The couple who were married for 70 years had long become national icons – a piece of Kiwiana. Kiwiana is everything that makes New Zealand, from the flightless kiwi to the silver fern, from guys in gumboots, shorts and singlet to fish’n’chips, from the pavlova, a merengue cake with cream and fruit, to Fred and Myrtle Flutey.
In their will they had wished that their plastered white house with the turquoise green window frames and the orange coloured tiled roof become a museum. But their offspring were not able to maintain the house. Behind the backs of his relatives Fred and Myrtle’s grandson, Ross Bowen, who had inherited the house, offered the shells and all the kitsch and arty clutter to several museums as a loan. But only with Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, 609 kilometres further north, he could strike a deal. In a cloak-and-dagger operation he stripped the house of the clutter and sold the house. Not only the whole of Southland was disgusted. Bowen became the villain, evil-doer, desecrator of a memorial, and within the suddenly fallen out family the black sheep. “Fred and Myrtle would turn over in their graves”, was the general tenor.
It was a kind of miracle that not only Bowen but also two daughters of the Fluteys attended the opening of the Paua House in Canterbury Museum although the daughters still have not digested the destruction of their parents’ legacy in Bluff that now is only famous for its oysters. But even they were totally delighted by the marvellous job the museum’s curator Sarah Whitehead and her staff had done. “Everything looks exactly like the original”, was the most heard comment of guests and visitors on the opening weekend.
A building company reconstructed the villa in an extension of the museum true to scale. A part of the interior decoration could be saved from the house in Bluff, among other things the old-fashioned carpet with its big pattern, the seal juggling a ball, and a gigantic paua shell made of concrete that had been in the front garden, and the original plate with the house number 257.
Despite her fabulous achievement Sarah Whitehead considers the shift to Christchurch only the second-best solution. “I would have preferred the collection to remain at its original site”, says the curator who photographed the Flutey’s lounge in detail and could use film material for the recreation. “But this was not possible. It would have been horrible for New Zealand if this treasure had been taken overseas.”
What makes the exhibit perfect is the installation of a small cinema beside the Fluteys’ lounge. In a short film the meaning of Kiwiana is explained, and why the Fluteys are part of it.
As the extroverted couple appeared on TV every now and then, for example in advertisements for toast bread and ice cream, film documents of them have been conserved. “I had collected paua shells in Fiordland and ground them down for 27 years. Myrtle said, you have to clear the shells from the floor because I need to vacuum. So I hit nails into the wall and hung up the shells”, you see and hear Fred say. “And now I always dust them”, adds Myrtle with a smile.
It is heartwarming to see how joyful this aged was, how happy and mentally fit until a ripe old age. Sarah Whitehead knows why: “I am convinced that collecting keeps you young and fresh.”
See more photos in the travelogue on my Christchurch intro page.
This museum had everything I look for in a good local museum. It was just large enough to tell the story of Canterbury, without having to go down to every single minute detail of the area's existence. I particularly enjoyed the simple, yet effective presentation of the Maori artifacts. There were several large pieces which were on display, and really gave a great depiction of this country's heritage.
In addition to the Maori exhibit, it also looked at the area from the perspective of the European settlers, particularly during the Victorian age. You are able to stroll down a Victorian street scene, filled with many reproduced items from the age.
All in all, this is a great bad weather stop, or just a good break from the heat of a walk in the summertime. I hope you enjoy!
Hours of opening
Summer Daily 9 am - 5.30 pm (October - March)
Winter Daily 9 am - 5 pm (April - September)
Closed Christmas Day
Entry is free - a donation is appreciated
Canterbury Museum is located on Rolleston Avenue at the end of Worcester Boulevard just next door to the Botanic Gardens, opposite The Arts Centre and 500 metres from Cathedral Square.
There is no admission fee but a donation box is found at the entrance to the exhibits.
You may join a free guided tour around Canterbury Museum. The staff will be happy to answer your queries and provide you with information about the galleries and collections.
Take some time to explore the rich cultural and natural heritage of New Zealand.
Hours of opening
Summer Daily 9 am - 5.30 pm (October - March)
Winter Daily 9 am - 5 pm (April - September)
Closed on Christmas Day
You may like to visit the Botanic Gardens which is just next door.
I enjoyed my amble through Canterbury Museum one drizzly morning. The museum is housed in a glorious building built in 1870 on Rolleston Ave, directly opposite the end of Worcester Street, which leads from Cathedral Square (only a few minutes gentle stroll). The tram also passes by the museum.
The museum has some excellent displays about the geologic history of the region and the early Maori settlements around Christchurch. There is a very well presented ‘townscape’ from the 19th century. There is an informative gallery devoted to Antarctica and in particular, the human impacts on that continent. There is even an Egyptian mummy in this museum. The café upstairs provides much needed victuals!
Entry is free, though a donation may be given.
A visit to Canterbury Museum give you a wide-ranging look at many aspects of the history of Christchurch and the surrounding region from prehistoric times right through to the 20th century. This is a very traditional museum, with a wide-ranging and eclectic collection - everything from stuffed birds (including the now extinct giant wingless moa) and giant fossils to colonial ladies' evening dresses, Maori weapons and feather cloaks, a recreated street of Victorian shops - complete with penny-farthing bicycle to climb aboard, pioneering Antarctic explorers' possessions, even the recreation of a Victorian gentleman-scholar's study, cluttered with his own collection.
Special exhibitions change throughout the year - when we were there the focus was on Antarctica - complete with a transported Antarctic field station which saw use from the 50s to the 70s.
Entry is free but, as is always the case, donations are welcomed and encouraged - there are never enough funds in the government purse for places like this. Of course there's a shop, and a cafe.
The museum is quite good though small and can be found at the end of Worcester Boulevard - just follow the tram tracks toward Hagley Park. Entry is free and among the main exhibits is a 19th Century street, Egpytian Mummy, Antarctic display, (a good intro before going out to the International Antarctic Centre near the Airport), Natural History Discovery Centre and excellent Maori section.
The museum is about to begin redevelopment with completion expected in late this year (2006).
The Canterbury Museum is an interesting place to spend a few hours. There are some great exhibits, especially on Antarctica, the Maori culture and history, and the history of Christchurch. There is also a good collection of stuffed birds.
Admission is free and the hours are 9 AM - 5 PM every day (5:30 in summer).
Compared to other museums of this kind that I have been to, this one isn't particularly good in my opinion. The whole museum looks a bit old and the displays aren't very imaginative. The collection of birds and the Maori section are quite interesting though.
The entrance to the museum is free so take a look anyway and donate something if you like it.
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