Matilda Vaughan

Matilda Vaughan
Matilda Vaughan with the Great Melbourne Telescope's mirror-polishing machine.
Source: Museum Victoria

Curator, Engineering

Matilda's curatorial responsibilities focus on artefacts of the history and achievements of Victoria's engineering industries and its influence on Australia's manufacturing industries. She finds all sorts of artefacts fascinating but especially those with mechanical mechanisms and those that can tell a story about industry and society.


Matilda has always been curious about how (and why) things are made. A childhood spent around her father's industrial engineering workshop combined with an enthusiasm for taking things apart and putting them back together again (with various degrees of success), led to her taking up university studies in engineering. A final year thesis on how to improve the process of removing hollow chocolate eggs from their plastic moulds without breaking so many (important for the chocoholics out there!), shaped her future practical career direction. Her professional engineering career was centred around the food and dairy industries, working in research and development, process and project engineering roles which saw her working in manufacturing plants all around Australia and in Europe. Her later career specialisation was in hygienic manufacturing process design and membrane filtration processes for dairy products.

A few years ago Matilda found her interests were moving more towards historical engineering technology and industrial processes, and she undertook further studies in museums and heritage. She began volunteering for the museum's working machines program in 2007 and started working for the museum as a Registration Officer in 2010, cataloguing and photographing objects and documents in the History & Technology collections. She was appointed as Curator of Engineering in August 2012.

Current activities

Matilda's current activities work towards enhancing the visibility of our collection, through the documentation and research into the artefacts of the historic engineering collection, in areas such as energy technology, manufacturing industries, trades, materials science, machine and hand tools, and trade literature. She is a team member for the working machines program, operating and demonstrating the museum's historic transport collection on selected Sundays throughout the year. Matilda is also working with museum staff and volunteers to restore the Great Melbourne Telescope and has a strong interest in the nineteenth century materials and manufacturing processes used to construct the telescope and its mirrors.

Matilda holds an Honours Degree in Mechanical Engineering (Swinburne) and post graduate diplomas in Management, Applied Science (Dairy) and Museum Studies.