Wayne Modest professor of Material Culture and Critical Heritage Studies

12/01/2016 | 8:44 AM

Wayne Modest is appointed professor (by special appointment) at the Faculty of Humanities at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) as of the 21st of  October 2016. Modest, director of the Research Center for Material Culture in Leiden, holds the chair initiated by the Netherlands National Museum of World Cultures (NMVW). The chair focuses on material culture and heritage studies and is part of a targeted collaboration of the VU with museums. In addition to the Tropenmuseum, the Museum of Ethnology and the Africa Museum, which form the National Museum of World Cultures, this also includes the Westerbork memorial center, the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum, Open Air Museum, the Orgelpark Foundation and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands.

WayneModestTekstCollaboration between VU and the Research Center for Material Culture
Modest is director of the Research Center for Material Culture (RCMC), the research institute of the NMVW. The RCMC is a dynamic node in a network where experts and stakeholders meet for discussions on the meaning and future of colonial, ethnographic and art historical collections. Modest: "I am delighted with the appointment. This provides the opportunity to do urgent and innovative research into one of the most important museum collections in the Netherlands and Europe.” The collaboration between the VU and NMVW places the current research in a broader academic and museum context at both national and international levels. At the university, the chair is embedded in the VU research institute CLUE +, VU’s center of expertise in the field of history and heritage, as well as in the study programme of Art and Culture Studies and History.

Research starting from collections
The RCMC was established as a hub of national and international networks that approaches the ethnographic collections of the own and other museums in new and critical ways. Modest: "This chair adds a deeper, more critical dimension to what we can achieve. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the many stakeholders who feel connected to these collections." Modest also wants to be facilitate students and academics to do research on these collections, their history and their contemporary significance. The collections are the starting point for research projects at all levels of science. Around these, the RCMC develops scientific and social networks to generate new forms of historiography and other signifying processes in the present. Modest: "That also relates to ethics, and to new ways of approaching and understanding ethical issues concerning these collections . The exchange of views and knowledge within the networks will lead to a better understanding, not only of the historical significance of the collections, but also of their potential and actual role in contemporary society.”

Wayne Modest wrote his PhD at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, investigating the historical development of museums in relation to the slavery past. Previously, he worked as Chief Curator of anthropology at the Horniman Museum in London and as director of the Department of Museums of History and Ethnography of the Institute of Jamaica in Kingston. Between 2010 and 2014 he was Head of the Curatorial Department the Tropenmuseum.