Wayne Modest - Research Center for Material Culture (RCMC)

Wayne Modest

Prof. dr. Wayne Modest 

Director of Content National Museum of WorldCultures, Wereldmuseum Rotterdam

Head of the Research Center for Material Culture


Wayne Modest is the Director of Content for the National Museum of Worldcultures and the Wereldmuseum, Rotterdam and head of the Research Center of Material Culture. He is also professor of Material Culture and Critical Heritage Studies (by special appointment) in the faculty of humanities at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam (VU). Modest was previously, head of the curatorial department at the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam; Keeper of Anthropology at the Horniman Museum in London, and Director of the Museums of History and Ethnography in Kingston, Jamaica.

He has held visiting scholar positions at the Yale Centre for British Art, Yale University and the School for Museums Studies, New York University. Wayne Modest’s work is driven by a concern for more historically contingent ways of understanding the present, especially in relation to material culture/museum collections. His research interests include issues of belonging and displacement; material mobilities; histories of (ethnographic) collecting and exhibitionary practices; difficult/contested heritage (with a special focus on slavery, colonialism and post-colonialism); Caribbean Thought. More recently Modest has been researching and publishing on heritage and citizenship in Europe with special attention for urban life, and on ethnographic museums and questions of redress/repair.

Selected Publications


  • Museums and Communities: Curators, Collections, Collaborations (Bloomsbury Academic Publishers, ed. with Viv Golding, 2013)
  • Museums, Heritage and International Development (Routledge, ed. with Paul Basu, 2013)
  • Victorian Jamaica (Duke University Press, ed. with Tim Barringer, 2018)

Articles and Chapters

  • “We’ve Always Been Modern: Museums, Collections and Modernity.” Museum Anthropology 35(1). 2012
  • “Material Bridges: Objects, Museums and New Indigeneity in the Caribbean.” In Seeking Bridges: Anthropology and Indigenous/Native Studies (Routledge, 2012)
  • “Museums, African Collections and Social Justice (with Helen Mears)” in Museums, Equality and Social Justice (Routledge, 2012),
  • “Slavery and the (Symbolic) Politics of Memory in Jamaica: Rethinking the Bicentenary” in Representing Enslavement and Abolition in Museums (Routledge, 2011).
  • Anxious Politics in the European City (with Anouk de Koning, eds.). Special issue of Patterns of Prejudice 50(2). 2016

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