Matthew Churchward

Senior Curator, Engineering and Transport

Matthew Churchward
Matthew Churchward driving the Sentinel steam truck on Machines in Action Day at Scienceworks.
Source: Museum Victoria

Matthew Churchward develops, interprets and documents the museum's technology collections, and undertakes related research, specialising in the areas of engineering, transport and trade literature. He also manages the museum's working machinery program and provides curatorial oversight for Humanities Collections Online.


Matthew Churchward's lifelong fascination with everything mechanical began before he could walk, but was clearly stimulated by the receipt of a "Tinkertoy" construction set on his third birthday and his first "Meccano" set at six. Family holidays spent exploring Victoria's central goldfields and an interest in bushwalking, helped foster an early interest in Victoria's mining and forestry history.

After completing a Bachelor's Degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Melbourne, he was sidetracked from an engineering career, undertaking a Masters Degree examining Victoria's 19th century mining machinery manufacturers.

Matthew's involvement with Museum Victoria began in 1989-90, when he was employed as a research officer on the Victoria Steam Heritage Survey, examining the history of steam power in Victorian industry and completing state wide fieldwork to record some 2,000 examples of historic steam equipment. After then working as an industrial heritage consultant for a period, he joined the museum's curatorial staff in 1994.

Over the past twenty years he has been involved in exhibition development and public program delivery at all of the museum's venues together with extensive behind-the-scenes work on collection development and documentation. Since 2005 he has played a key role in the development of the museum's Collections Online website.

Matthew's research interests include the technology of immigrant shipping, the history of Victorian manufacturing, engineering, mining, industrial design, bridges and transport infrastructure. His publications include the Victorian Steam Heritage Register, co-authorship of Victorian Steampower - An Illustrated Social History and a variety of book chapters and articles.

Matthew has served on a number of expert committees, including:

  • Industrial Heritage Committee of the National Trust of Australia (Victoria)
  • Engineering Heritage Victoria Committee of Engineers Australia
  • Victorian Heritage Council's Historic Shipwrecks Advisory Committee
  • Victorian Heritage Council's Industrial and Engineering Heritage Advisory Committee

Current Activities

Working Machinery Program

Matthew manages the museum's working machinery program, which restores and activates large technology collection objects. He has provided curatorial oversight for over a dozen restoration and conservation projects including steam traction engines, road rollers, tractors, horsedrawn vehicles, motor vehicles, two 300 horsepower steam pumping engines, oil engines and farm machinery.

Great Melbourne Telescope Restoration Project

Matthew is currently managing the Great Melbourne Telescope (GMT) Restoration Project, jointly supervising a team of 15 volunteers from the Astronomical Society of Victoria who regularly contribute to the project.

Agricultural Implement & Machinery Manufacturers

Matthew is researching technological innovation in Victoria's agricultural implement and machinery manufacturing industry. His current focus includes the history of Spotswood firms T. Robinson & Co. Pty Ltd and the Hugh Lennon Plow & Machine Co.; Cliff & Bunting, of North Melbourne; and product development by H.V. McKay's Sunshine Harvester Works and its successor Massey-Ferguson.

Victorian Mining History

Matthew is currently researching the introduction of electric power in Victoria's deep lead mines, the development of dredge technology in north-east Victoria, and working to create narratives on some of Victoria's leading gold mines and mining fields for Collections Online.

Spotswood Pumping Station

Since 1989, Matthew has undertaken extensive research into the Spotswood Pumping Station and early Melbourne sewerage scheme. Recently he has been focusing on developing narratives for the Pumping Station website and improving documentation on related holdings of photographs, oral histories and historic artefacts.

EPEX Engineering Products

Matthew has been working with a former employee of Engineering Products Pty Ltd, of Burnley, to document the history of this business that, from 1927, produced equipment for the petroleum distribution industry under the 'EPEX' brandname. A particular focus has been the firm's innovative coin-operated petrol pumps developed in the 1950s.

Engineering Photographic Collections

Matthew is working with collection managers and volunteers to rehouse and catalogue photographs and motion film from several large engineering collections that document the products and activities of the International Harvester Company of Australia, Vickers Ruwolt, and the State Electricity Commission of Victoria.

Immigrant Shipping to Victoria

Since in 1997, Matthew has been researching the history of immigrant shipping to Victoria, focusing on the impact of technological changes to shipping, oral histories and passenger diaries. He is currently overseeing the commissioning of a detailed model of the famous 1850s clipper ship Lightning, and has recently acquired an original ship-builder's model of the 1930s immigrant liner RMS Stratheden.

Last updated 1 May 2014