Martín Almagro Basch

Director from 4 September 1968 to 17 April 1981

Martín Almagro Basch

 

Martín Almagro Basch (Tramacastilla, Teruel, 17 April 1911 – Madrid, 28 August 1984), a graduate of Philosophy & Letters and Law from the Central University of Madrid, with a PhD in History (1934), entered the Specialist Corps of Archivists, Librarians and Archaeologists in 1935, working simultaneously at different museums and the university until he retired in 1981, when he was appointed chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Archaeological Museum.

He became director of the museum in 1968, following a competitive selection procedure, and his first major undertaking was to radically transform the building and create completely new installations for the collections. Luis Moya Blanco and Antonio Almagro Gorbea drew up the architectural plans to turn the original two-storey building into a five-storey museum. Meanwhile, the skylights were removed from the Roman and Arab courtyards, which together with the central courtyard were reduced in size to allow for the construction of a new wing running from north to south, parallel to the party wall with the National Library, to facilitate the flow of foot traffic.

All of these alterations resulted in a considerably larger exhibition area; new spaces for the public, such as the lecture hall, the screening room and the distinctly scientific library, which Almagro vigorously promoted as a cornerstone of his directorial policy; and more spacious internal areas, including storerooms, restoration facilities, workshops and a photographic laboratory.

Spanish archaeology, from prehistory to the 19th century, was the core theme of the exhibition design, although there was also a smaller section dedicated to foreign collections from the Western Sahara, Egypt and Asia Minor, Greek and South Italic vases, and the Etruscan collection.

Architectural alterations, research and intellectual work were the key endeavours of Almagro’s mandate, all geared towards modernising the institution.