Paul Turnbull

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Paul Turnbull

Adjunct Professor
Digital Humanities

Paul Turnbull is a cultural historian with special expertise in the use of computation and information technologies in historical research and online publication of its outcomes. His prime research interest is the history of comparative human anatomy and physical anthropology, and he is internationally known for his research on the collecting and scientific uses of the bodily remains of Australian and other Indigenous peoples in the late eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He has also an international reputation in digital humanities, and holds the University of Tasmania's first professorship in this emerging and highly experimental field.


Before joining the University of Tasmania, Paul was Professor of e-History at the University of Queensland, after having been head of the School of Arts, Media and Culture at Griffith University from 2004-7. Prior to this he was Professor of History at James Cook University and between 1990-2002 was a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research at the Australian National University.

Since the early 1990s, Paul has held numerous fellowships and visiting professorships in North American and European universities.  He is a past Fulbright Senior Scholar and was recently a fellow of the Morphomata Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Cologne.

Paul began his career with a doctoral thesis in the field of eighteenth century British intellectual history. Thereafter he began to research the history of human comparative human anatomy and physical anthropology, focusing on the collecting and scientific uses of the bodily remains of Indigenous Australians from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. This work has involved close collaboration with Indigenous communities in Queensland and other parts of Australia, for several of whom he has undertaken research on the identification of ancestral remains.

Paul is also internationally known for his research and development of online history and heritage resources. He is currently engaged in developing techniques for the visual analysis of complex historical sources.

Career summary


DegreeTitle of ThesisUniversityCountryAwarded
PhDThe Life, Religious and Philosophical Thought of Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Historian of the Roman EmpireJames Cook University Australia1986
BA (Hons)Studies in the Historical Thought of Edward GibbonJames Cook UniversityAustralia1978

Languages (other than English)

Some conversational fluency in French and German. Reading knowledge of French and German.


Professional practice

  • Editor, History Compass, Blackwell Publishers (2004 - present)
  • Scientific Advisory Board, Austrian Academy [Digital] Corpus (2000 - present)
  • Scientific Board, Cromohs, Cyber review of modern historiography (University of Firenze), (1995 - present)

Committee associations

  • Vice President, Australasian Association for Digital Humanities (2014 - present)
  • Member, The Austrian-South Pacific Society (OSPG)
  • Member, Austrian Anthropological Society
  • Alumnus, Morphomata Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Cologne.

Administrative expertise

Dean of Arts, James Cook University, 1997-1999; Head of History Division, James Cook University, 2000-2004; Head of the School of Arts, Media and Culture, Griffith University, 2004-2007; Chair University Learning Environment Committee, Griffith University, 2005-2008; Chair, Research Committee, School of History, Philosophy and Politics, University of Queensland, 2009-2013.


History of the Biomedical Sciences; History of Anthropology; Big History; Digital Humanities; History and Heritage in Digital Media; Critical Heritage Studies; History of Museums.

Teaching expertise

Design of undergraduate majors in history, heritage studies and communication; design of honours and postgraduate programs in cultural informatics.

Teaching responsibility

Mind, Brain and Body in Europe, 1750-1945 (HBT201) and (HBT301)

Research Appointments

  • Guest Professor, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna, 2014. 
  • Adjunct Professor of History, School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, University of Queensland, 2009 to date.

Research Invitations

  • Invited speaker, Symposium on the History of the Concept of Savagery, Australian Studies Centre, University of Copenhagen, October 2015.
  • Keynote speaker, 'Cook Knowing the Sea' 20th Annual Conference of the New Zealand Studies Association: Across the Pacific, Oslo, Norway, June 2014.
  • Invited speaker, Austrian South-Pacific Society Conference, University of Vienna, June 2013.

View more on Professor Paul Turnbull in WARP


  • History of Collecting and Scientific Use of Aboriginal Australian and other Indigenous Skeletal Remains
  • Museums and the Repatriation of Indigenous Bodily Remains
  • History of Human Evolutionary Science and Physical Anthropology
  • Digital Humanities
  • History and Heritage Research in Digital Media

Research Themes

Paul's research aligns with the University's research theme of Creativity, Culture and Society and Data, Knowledge and Decisions. The main focus of his historical research is the use of Australian and other Indigenous bodily remains by comparative human anatomists and physical anthropologists from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century.  His research in the field of digital humanities has become focused on techniques for the visual analysis of cultural complex historical information, and the creation of research-based digital history and heritage resources in collaboration with museums, community-based history and heritage organisations and the public.

Paul's research on the history of scientific use of the bodily remains of Indigenous peoples has led to ongoing collaboration with Indigenous and non-indigenous colleagues, and community-based researchers and knowledge custodians in Australia, North America, New Zealand and South Africa.  In recent times, his work on the collecting and uses of ancestral bodily remains has led to his participation in collaborative research contributing to the successful return of human remains and other important cultural property from museums and other scientific institutions to Indigenous communities.

Paul also works closely with historians, anthropologists, anatomists and museum professionals in Britain and continental Europe on researching various aspects of the history of medico-scientific interest in human bodily and cultural diversity since the late eighteenth century. He is currently exploring how medico-scientific researchers active between 1860-1930 imagined the lives of Palaeolithic Europeans, and how their research proved a fertile source of inspiration for fictional and visual representations of archaic homo sapiens and earlier Hominids. Here, he is particularly interested in how scientific reconstructions of the lives of Palaeolithic Europeans drew on the analysis of Australian Indigenous bodily remains.


Paul is currently involved in a major research project exploring the history and effects of the repatriation of Indigenous skeletal remains.  This project involves collaboration with researchers at three Australian University, personnel of the Office for the Arts (Australian Government Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport), and staff of the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre (KALACC), Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority (NRA), National Museum of Australia, University of Otago, Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA), Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and Gur A Baradharaw Kod Torres Strait Sea and Land Council Torres Strait Islander Corporation. Paul's research on the collecting and scientific use of Indigenous bodily remains between 1860-1914 involves collaboration with historians, anthropologists and anatomists of the Universities of Berlin, Bonn, Cologne and Vienna.


  • 2015: Germany Ministry of Education and Research Fellow, Morphomata Centre, University of Cologne
  • 2004: Australian-American Fulbright Senior Scholar
  • 2001: James Cook University Excellence in Research Award.
  • 1996: Co-recipient (as Executive Committee Member of H-Net, International
  • On-Line Network for the Humanities) of the James Harvey Robinson Prize for services to history teaching, American Historical Association.
  • 1994: Harold White Fellow, National Library of Australia
  • 1993: Queensland Department of Technical and Further Education Medal for Contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education.

Current projects

Fields of Research

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History (210301)
  • History and Philosophy of Science (incl. Non-historical Philosophy of Science) (220206)
  • Historical Studies (210399)
  • Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) (210303)
  • Pacific History (excl. New Zealand and Maori) (210313)
  • History and Philosophy of Specific Fields (220299)
  • History and Philosophy of the Humanities (220207)
  • Museum Studies (210204)
  • History and Philosophy of Medicine (220205)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Studies (200201)
  • Archival, Repository and Related Studies (210201)
  • Musicology and Ethnomusicology (190409)
  • Social and Community Informatics (080709)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Knowledge Management (080701)
  • History and Philosophy of the Social Sciences (220208)
  • Australian Literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature) (200502)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Information and Knowledge Systems (080601)
  • Heritage and Cultural Conservation (210202)
  • Human Information Behaviour (080703)

Research Objectives

  • Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society (970116)
  • Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology (970121)
  • Understanding Australia's Past (950503)
  • Conserving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage (950302)
  • Understanding Past Societies (950599)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health - Determinants of Health (920301)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Development and Welfare (940102)
  • Information Services (890399)
  • Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing (970119)
  • Conserving Pacific Peoples Heritage (950306)
  • Conserving Intangible Cultural Heritage (950304)
  • Conserving Collections and Movable Cultural Heritage (950303)


Paul has co-edited two books with leading scholarly publishers, and written many essays, book chapters, and articles in international journals, besides writing refereed conference papers, encyclopaedia entries, and consultancy reports.

Paul regularly contributes review articles and book reviews to newspapers, periodicals and scholarly journals, including the Times Literary Supplement, The Journal of Pacific History, The Journal of British Studies, Australian Historical Studies, and The Australian Journal of History and Politics. He is currently completing a major book on the history of the collecting and scientific uses of Aboriginal Australian remains during the long nineteenth century.

Total publications


Journal Article

(11 outputs)
2016Turnbull P, 'Managing and mapping the history of collecting indigenous human remains', The Australian Library Journal, 65, (3) pp. 203-212. ISSN 0004-9670 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1080/00049670.2016.1207714 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 2Web of Science - 2


2015Turnbull P, 'Anthropological Collecting and Colonial Violence in Colonial Queensland: A Response to 'The Blood and the Bone'', Journal of Australian Colonial History, 17 pp. 133-158. ISSN 1441-0370 (2015) [Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]


2015Turnbull PG, 'Australian Museums, Aboriginal Skeletal Remains, and the Imagining of Human Evolutionary History', Museum and Society, 13, (1) pp. 72-87. ISSN 1479-8360 (2015) [Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]


2015Turnbull P, 'The Aims of Big History', History Compass, 13, (7) pp. 349-358. ISSN 1478-0542 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/hic3.12242 [eCite] [Details]


2012Turnbull PG, 'Global in scope, scientific in spirit: the challenges of big history', History Teacher eJournal, 50, (3) pp. 1-15. ISSN 0085-154X (2012) [Professional, Non Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]

2012Turnbull PG, 'The Aboriginal' Australian brain in the scientific imagination, c. 1820-1880', Somatechnics, 2, (2) pp. 171-197. ISSN 2044-0138 (2012) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3366/soma.2012.0056 [eCite] [Details]


2010Turnbull PG, 'Historians, computing and the World-Wide-Web', Australian Historical Studies, 41, (2) pp. 131-148. ISSN 1031-461X (2010) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1080/10314611003713629 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 7Web of Science - 4


2010Turnbull PG, 'James Cook's hundred days in Queensland', Queensland Historical Atlas: Histories, Cultures, Landscapes pp. 1-2. ISSN 1838-708X (2010) [Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]

2007Turnbull PG, 'Scientific theft of remains in colonial Australia', Australian Indigenous Law Review, 11, (1) pp. 92-104. ISSN 1835-0186 (2007) [Refereed Article]

[eCite] [Details]

2007Turnbull PG, 'Scientific theft of remains in colonial Australia - A postscript', Australian Indigenous Law Review, 11, (2) pp. 72-73. ISSN 1835-0186 (2007) [Letter or Note in Journal]

[eCite] [Details]

2006Turnbull P, 'British anatomists, phrenologists and the construction of the Aboriginal Race, c.1790-1830', History Compass, 5, (1) pp. 26-50. ISSN 1478-0542 (2006) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/j.1478-0542.2006.00367.x [eCite] [Details]



(1 outputs)
2017Turnbull P, 'Science, museums and collecting the Indigenous dead in colonial Australia', Palgrave Macmillan, Switzerland, pp. 434. ISBN 978-3-319-51873-2 (2017) [Authored Research Book]

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-51874-9 [eCite] [Details]


Chapter in Book

(11 outputs)
2018Turnbull P, 'German-Australian Research on a Difficult Legacy: Colonial Collections of Indigenous Human Remains in German Museums and Collections', German-Australian Encounters and Cultural Transfers: Global Dynamics in Transnational Lands, Springer Singapore, B Nickl, I Herrschner, EM Goździak (ed), Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd., pp. 179-191. ISBN 978-981-10-6598-9 (2018) [Research Book Chapter]

DOI: 10.1007/978-981-10-6599-6 [eCite] [Details]


2018Turnbull P, 'Digitally analysing colonial collecting: the Return, Reconcile Renew project', Provenienzforschung zu ethnologischen Sammlungen der Kolonialzeit, Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage (CARMAH), L Forester, I Edenheiser, S Frundt, and H Hartmann (ed), Berlin, pp. 103-113. ISBN 978-3-86004-332-5 (2018) [Research Book Chapter]

DOI: 10.18452/19029 [eCite] [Details]


2015Fforde C, Ormand-Parker L, Turnbull P, 'Repatriation Research: Archives and the Recovery of History and Heritage', Heritage, Ancestry and Law: Principles, Policies and Practices in Dealing with Historical Human Remains, Institute of Art and Law, R Redmond-Cooper (ed), United Kingdom, pp. 39-59. ISBN 9781903987377 (2015) [Research Book Chapter]

[eCite] [Details]


2014Turnbull PG, 'Margins, Mainstreams and the Mission of Digital Humanities', Advancing Digital Humanities Research, Methods, Theories, Palgrave Macmillan, Paul Arthur and Katherine Bode (ed), London; New York, pp. 258-273. ISBN 9781137336996 (2014) [Research Book Chapter]

[eCite] [Details]


2013Turnbull PG, 'Das indigene Australien im ersten Jahrhundert der europaeischen Invasion', Australien: 18. bis 21. Jahrhundert. Geschichte und Gesellschaft, Promedia-Verlag, Hermann Muckler, Gabriele Weichart and Friedrich Edelmayer (ed), Wien, Austria, pp. 87-100. ISBN 9783853713525 (2013) [Research Book Chapter]

[eCite] [Details]


2011Turnbull PG, 'A judicious collector: Edward Charles Stirling and the procurement of Aboriginal bodily remains in South Australia, c. 1880-1912', The body divided: Human beings and human, Ashgate, Sarah Ferber and Sally Wilde (ed), Farnham, Surrey, United Kingdom, pp. 109-130. ISBN 9780754668343 (2011) [Research Book Chapter]

[eCite] [Details]


2010Turnbull PG, 'Introduction', The Long Journey Home: the meanings and Values of Repatriation, Berghahn Books, Paul Turnbull and Michael Pickering (ed), Oxford, England, pp. 1-14. ISBN 9781845459581 (2010) [Other Book Chapter]

[eCite] [Details]

2010Turnbull PG, 'The Vermillion Accord and the significance of the history of the scientific procurement and use of Indigenous Australian bodily remains', The Long Way Home: The Meaning and Values of Repatriation, Berghahn Books, Paul Turnbull, Michael Pickering, Mary Bouquet, Howard Morphy (ed), United Kingdom, pp. 117-134. ISBN 9781845459581 (2010) [Research Book Chapter]

[eCite] [Details]


2009Turnbull PG, 'The chief mourner's costume: Religion and political change in the Society Islands, 1768-73', Discovering Cook's collections, National Museum of Australia, Michelle Hetherington and Howard Morphy (ed), Canberra, Australia, pp. 41-57. ISBN 9781876944575 (2009) [Research Book Chapter]

[eCite] [Details]

2008Turnbull PG, 'British anthropological thought in colonial practice: The appropriation of Indigenous Australian bodies, 1860-1880', Foreign bodies: Oceania and the science of race 1750-1940, ANU E Press, Bronwen Douglas and Chris Ballard (ed), Canberra, Australia, pp. 109-130. ISBN 9781921313998 (2008) [Research Book Chapter]

[eCite] [Details]

2006Turnbull PG, Kornbluh M, Shell-Weiss S, 'Alternatives to pay-for-view: The case for open access to historical research and scholarship', Libr@ries: Changing information space and practice, Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, Cushla Kapitzke and Bruce Bertram (ed), Mahwah, New Jersey, United States, pp. 211-218. ISBN 9780805854817 (2006) [Research Book Chapter]

[eCite] [Details]


(4 outputs)
2015Turnbull P, 'Science, Voyages, and Encounters in Oceania, 1511-1850', Journal of Pacific History, 50, (3) pp. 377-379. ISSN 0022-3344 (2015) [Review Single Work]

DOI: 10.1080/00223344.2015.1074328 [eCite] [Details]


2013Turnbull PG, 'Clark Lawlor, From Melancholia to Prozac: A History of Depression', Health and History, 15, (2) pp. 125-127. ISSN 1442-1771 (2013) [Review Single Work]

[eCite] [Details]

2010Turnbull PG, 'Aphrodite's Island: the European discovery of Tahiti', Journal of Pacific History, 45, (3) pp. 375. ISSN 0022-3344 (2010) [Review Single Work]

DOI: 10.1080/00223344.2010.530820 [eCite] [Details]


2010Turnbull PG, 'Captain Cook: Voyager between two worlds', Australian Journal of Politics and History, 56, (3) pp. 465-466. ISSN 0004-9522 (2010) [Review Single Work]

[eCite] [Details]

Conference Publication

(1 outputs)
2016Turnbull P, 'Visually Analysing Colonial Entrepreneurship, Architecture and Science', Globalisation, Entrepreneurship and the South Pacific: Reframing Australian Colonial Architecture 1800-1850, 2016, Hobart, Tasmania, pp. 54-61. ISBN 978-1-922016-35-5 (2016) [Non Refereed Conference Paper]

[eCite] [Details]

Computer Software

(2 outputs)
2013Turnbull PG, 'Paper Miner: Geo-Temporal indexes for Australian Newspapers Online', 1, University Of Queensland Data Collection, University Of Queensland Data Collection (2013) [Software Other]

[eCite] [Details]

2013Turnbull PG, 'Paper Miner v1.0 Eveleigh NSW', 1, Smart Services CRC, Australia (2013) [Software Other]

[eCite] [Details]

Contract Report, Consultant's Report

(1 outputs)
2013Fforde C, Turnbull PG, 'Ancestral Remains returned from the Natural History Museum, Vienna in 2009 and currently in the care of KALACC', Kimberley Region's Peak Indigenous Law and Culture Centre (2013) [Consultants Report]

[eCite] [Details]


(1 outputs)
2014Turnbull PG, 'Vermillion Accord on Human Remains (1989) (Legislation)', The Encyclopaedia of Global Archaeology, Claire Smith (ed), New York, pp. 7615-7617 (2014) [Entry]

[eCite] [Details]

Other Public Output

(1 outputs)
2013Turnbull PG, 'Guide to sources for north Queensland history', Melbourne University, Parkville, VIC, Australia (2013) [Report Other]

[eCite] [Details]

Grants & Funding

Since 2000, Paul has been the recipient of research funding secured from the ARC, AITSIS and other sources. His recent grants include $48,000 from the University of Queensland Collaborative Engagement with Industry scheme in 2012, and, in the same year, funding in collaboration with the CRC for Smart Services (QUT) to develop analysis tools for the National Library of Australia's Australian Newspapers Online ($43,000).

Until 2017, Paul is a Chief Investigator on the major ARC Linkage Project Return, Reconcile, Renew: Understanding the History, Effects and Opportunities of Repatriation ($629,533).

Funding Summary

Number of grants


Total funding



Restoring Dignity: Networked Knowledge for Repatriation Communities (2017 - 2018)$1,612,021
Indigenous communities and an international team of researchers aim to build a unique digital facility that willsupport the repatriation of Indigenous human remains and scholarship on this issue. Repatriation is an extraordinary Indigenous chievement which has been the single most important agent of change in therelationship between Indigenous peoples, museums and the academy over the past 40 yrs. Successful repatriation requires, and produces, research materials diverse in type, geography and accessibility. Within an Indigenous data-governance framework Restoring Dignity builds on LP130100131 to gather, preserve and make appropriately accessible a critical and extensive record of repatriation information that exists worldwide.
Australian Research Council ($1,232,021)
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies ($20,000); Department of Communications and the Arts ($200,000); Flinders University ($20,000); National Museum of Australia ($20,000); University of Melbourne ($120,000)
Grant-Linkage Infrastructure
Administered By
Australian National University
Research Team
Fforde C; Rigney D; McCarthy G; Turnbull PG; Hemming S; Singley B
2017 - 2018
Grant Reference
Cultural Resilience and the Relational Museum (2015)$6,828
There are two objectives in this project. The first is to investigate the rich potential of collections held by Tasmanianmuseums, and other cultural institutions and historical sites as resources, not just for engaging museum-going publics,but for strengthening the cultural resilience of local communities through digitally stimulating reflection and debate onpast experience, and its implications for negotiating uncertain economic and social change. Our second aim in thisproject is to investigate and develop digital means of overcoming the problems inherent in the fact that many historicobjects of great significance to local Tasmania communities have become widely dispersed between public and privatecultural institutions.
University of Tasmania ($6,828)
Grant-Cross-Disciplinary Incentive
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Turnbull PG; Lueg C
Return, Reconcile, Renew: understanding the history, effects and opportunities of repatriation and building an evidence base for the future (2013 - 2016)$629,534
The repatriation of ancestral remains is an extraordinary Indigenous achievement and inter-cultural development of the past 40 years. This international project will provide critical new knowledge to understand repatriation, its history and effects and will provide scholarly and public outcomes that empower community-based research and practice.
Australian Research Council ($629,534)
Grant-Linkage Projects Round 1
Administered By
Australian National University
Research Team
Fforde C; Rigney D; Turnbull PG; McCarthy G; Ormond-Parker L; Hemming S; Pickering M; Tapsell P
2013 - 2016
Grant Reference

Research Supervision

Paul has successfully supervised fourteen PhD theses and several MA projects, with five of his students securing academic positions in Australia and New Zealand. The topics he has supervised include: various aspects of the history of museums and preservation of cultural heritage; European historiography, 1750-1850; the history of racial science in Europe; Pacific exploration and voyaging; intangible cultural heritage in digital media; the meanings and values of the repatriation of bodily remains and other significant cultural property.  He welcomes expressions of interest from new MA or PhD students in any of these areas.




PhDWilkes and War: Politics, culture and identity in Britain, 1760-17892017
PhDThe History of the Preston District, North West Tasmania 1888-20002017
PhDEducating Criminals: Tasmanian convict literacy and shipboard schooling2017
PhDPrison, Transportation and Juvenile Health in 19th century Britain and Australia2019