José Ramón Mélida y Alinari (Madrid, 26 October 1856 – Madrid, 30 December 1933) studied at the Spanish School of Diplomatics from 1873 until 1875, where some of his teachers, such as Manuel de Assas Ereño and Juan de Dios de la Rada, were members of the National Archaeological Museum staff.
He became director of the museum after a long career at the institution, which began with his appointment as an unpaid job candidate in 1876 and was only interrupted from 1911 to 1916 when he was director of the Museum of Artistic Reproductions.
He took up his post as museum director on 9 March 1916, and although he retired in 1923 he was re-confirmed in his post that same year. When he resigned in 1930, he was appointed honorary director.
Mélida y Alinari promoted the practice of publishing guides to publicise the artefacts on display and new acquisitions. In 1916 he launched the Notas Descriptivas series on the additions to the museum collections, which continued for over 50 years. When the first one came out, he said its purpose was… “…to provide cultivators of science, enthusiasts and the general public with adequate knowledge of the new elements of study and culture with which the museum is enriching its collections…” The Guía histórica y descriptiva del Museo Arqueológico Nacional (1917) was another important publication released at this time.
Like his predecessors, he was also beset by problems concerning the maintenance of the building, especially in relation to the skylights over the Roman and Arab courtyards and the installation of the Marquis de Cerralbo collection. He wrote a report on the works required at the museum, entitled “Nota de las obras necesarias en el local del Museo Arqueológico Nacional”, and managed to secure additional funding for the institution on two occasions, and he constantly insisted on the need to increase the number of assistants, guards and security staff.
During this period the museum took part in numerous exhibitions, particularly those organised by the Friends of Art Society at the National Library, but one of the most important occasions was undoubtedly the loan of the Quimbayas Hoard for the Ibero-American Exhibition in Seville in 1929. The person chosen to accompany these treasures to Seville and supervise their installation in the Colombian Pavilion was María Pilar Fernández de la Vega, the museum’s first female curator.Salto de línea