Wayne Modest - Research Center for Material Culture (RCMC)

Wayne Modest

Prof. dr. Wayne Modest 

Director of Content National Museum of World Cultures and the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam

Head of the Research Center for Material Culture


Wayne Modest is Director of Content of the National Museum of World Cultures (a museum group comprising the Tropenmuseum, Museum Volkenkunde, Africa Museum) and the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. He is also professor (by special appointment) of Material Culture and Critical Heritage Studies at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.  

A cultural studies scholar by training, Modest works at the intersection of material culture, memory and heritage studies, with a strong focus on colonialism and its afterlives in Europe and the Caribbean. His most recent publications include the co-edited publications, Matters of Belonging: Ethnographic Museums in A Changing Europe (Sidestone Publications, 2019, together with Nick Thomas, et al), and Victorian Jamaica (Duke University Press, 2018, together with Tim Barringer). He is currently working on several publication projects including Museum Temporalities (with Peter Pels, forthcoming Routledge, 2023) and Curating the Colonial (with Chiara de Cesari, forthcoming Routledge, 2023). Modest has (co)curated several exhibitions, most recently, the Kingston Biennial (2022) entitled Pressure (together with David Scott and Nicole Smythe-Johnshon) and What We Forget (2019) with artists Alana Jelinek, Rajkamal Kahlon, Servet Kocyigit, and Randa Maroufi, an exhibition that challenged dominant, forgetful representations of Europe that erase the role of Europe’s colonial past in shaping our contemporary world. 


Selected Publications


  • Matters of Belonging: Ethnographic Museums in A Changing Europe (Sidestone Publications, 2019, together with Nick Thomas, et al).
  • Victorian Jamaica (Duke University Press, 2018, together with Tim Barringer).
  • 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)

Articles and Chapters

  • Anxious Politics in the European City (with Anouk de Koning, eds.). Special issue of Patterns of Prejudice 50(2), 2016.
  • “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).

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Related events

7 March 2023

Thinking With | Carolyn Hamilton, Masimba Hwati, & Wayne Modest

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3 November 2022


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3 November 2022

TAKING CARE: Care at the Borderline