Professor Tapsell is a graduate of the University of Auckland (MA - Social Anthropology) and University of Oxford (DPhil - Museum Ethnography) and has had a distinguished career working within both the Museum community and also academia. He was Tumuaki/Director Māori of Tamaki Paenga Hira/Auckland Museum from 2000-2008, and was appointed as a Professor of Māori Studies in 2009 when he joined the University of Otago in Dunedin. Paul is currently also Director, Collections and Research at Museums Victoria.
Paul has published many articles, essays and award winning books and his research interests include Māori identity in 21st century New Zealand, cultural heritage & museums, taonga trajectories in and beyond tribal contexts, Māori values within governance policy frameworks, Indigenous entrepreneurial leadership, marae and mana whenua, genealogical mapping of tribal landscapes and Te Arawa historical and genealogical knowledge. Paul is a co-Principal Investigator on the NPM project Waka Wairua with Associate Professor Merata Kawharu.