Joaquín María de Navascués y de Juan (Zaragoza, 17 February 1900 – Madrid, 11 May 1975) obtained his school certificate and degree in Philosophy & Letters in Zaragoza, and his PhD from the Central University in Madrid (1949). He joined the Specialist Corps of Archivists, Librarians and Archaeologists in 1921, working at different museums and the university until he entered the National Archaeological Museum in 1930.
In 1940 he was appointed Chief Inspector of Archaeological Museums, and in 1942 he drew up a set of guidelines for cataloguing and inventorying collections at museums under the jurisdiction of the corps, entitled “Instrucciones para la redacción del inventario general, catálogos y registros en los museos servidos por el Cuerpo Facultativo de Archiveros, Bibliotecarios y Arqueólogos”.
Following the sudden death of Blas Taracena, Navascués was appointed acting director on 12 February 1951 and took up the post on 21 February. During his 15 months as acting director, he and Luis Moya drew up an ambitious plan to improve the building and the exhibition installations. This initial plan was ultimately replaced by a faster decision-making process after Navascués was confirmed as director, following a competitive selection procedure (1952), due to the imminent celebration in Madrid of the 4th International Congress on Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences. By the spring of 1954, the museum was able to inaugurate new installations of the majority of its collections, spread across 27 galleries. There were two exceptions: part of the prehistory collections had to wait until the Museum of the Americas vacated their galleries (1962); and the numismatic collections were placed in new, more functional furniture but were not exhibited to the public.
The new installation was accompanied by the publication of the Guía del Museo Arqueológico Nacional (1954), the first in a long series of museum guides for the general public. All new acquisitions were exhibited alongside artefacts of a similar type or period and were publicised in the Memoria de los Museos Arqueológicos until its demise in 1962, and subsequently in publications such as Numario Hispánico, Biblioteca Prehistórica Hispana and Trabajos de Prehistoria.
During this period various works were carried out in different parts of the museum facilities. For example, in 1965 German technicians built a replica on the grounds of the polychrome ceiling at the Cave of Altamira, not unlike the one that already existed at the Deutsches Museum in Munich (1962).
As a hub of scientific activity, the museum also became the home of institutions such as the Antonio Agustín Institute and the Spanish Prehistory Institute, part of the Spanish Research Council. Collaboration with the latter institute and the university was crucial in terms of archaeological research, allowing the museum to lead the works at the Spanish School of History and Archaeology in Rome and the excavations in Nubia (Egypt and Sudan) between 1962 and 1966.Salto de línea