Dr. Paul Michael Taylor

Curator Asian, European, and Middle Eastern Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution

Paul Michael Taylor, a research anthropologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, is Director of that museum’s Asian Cultural History Program, and serves as Curator of Asian, European, and Middle Eastern Ethnology.

Dr. Taylor is an author or editor of numerous books and scholarly articles on the ethnography, ethnobiology, languages, and art (or material culture) of Asia. These include “Artists of Modern Kazakhstan,” “Beyond the Java Sea: Art of Indonesia’s Outer Islands,” “Fragile Traditions: Indonesian Art in Jeopardy,” “Sikh Art from the Kapany Collection,” and “Splendors of Punjab Heritage: Art from the Khanuja Family Collection.” His book “The Folk Biology of the Tobelo People” presents results of his multi-year studies of the language, culture, and folk knowledge about animals and plants among the Tobelo people of Halmahera Island, Indonesia. He produced a major online multimedia publication interpreting a historic 1926 joint Smithsonian-Dutch expedition to western New Guinea, the subject of a workshop on expeditionary databases and websites he held in Almaty – which led to the development (with the Kasteyev Museum) of a major website on the expeditions of the Kazakh ethnographer Chokan Valikhanov (April 2010; revised/republished 2022). He has also curated twenty-two museum exhibitions (including five on-line virtual exhibitions). The recipient of numerous international grants and awards, he also served on the Board of Directors of the Association for Asian Studies.

Aside from his Smithsonian position, Paul Taylor has served as Senior Consultant for Social and Resettlement Issues for the World Bank Inspection Panel, participating in investigations of social and environmental safeguards on development projects in China, Paraguay/Argentina, Cambodia, and Papua New Guinea. He also served (1993-2016) as Director of Ethnographic Film Development for Essential TV (Overseas) Ltd., developing twelve documentary anthropological films. During his studies and his work on documentary films, he lived for over four years in small tribal communities or rural villages.

As director of the Smithsonian’s Asian Cultural History Program, he has worked closely with many individuals and community organizations to establish “Heritage” projects at the Smithsonian. These include Korean, Philippine, Thai, Taiwanese, and other Heritage projects.

A selection of about 112 of his papers and 32 books, along with various book reviews and other publications, can be viewed at: https://si.academia.edu/PaulMichaelTaylor.