Appointed director of the museum the same day that José Amador de los Ríos abandoned the post, Ventura Ruiz Aguilera (Salamanca, 2 November 1820 – 1 July 1881) was a doctor but, above all else, a man of letters. He skilfully carried on the work of his predecessors, forging ahead with the adaptation of the Casino de la Reina facilities to accommodate their new museum function and fitting them out with appropriate display furniture.
Under his supervision, Rada y Delgado reorganised Amador de los Ríos’ provisional division of the museum according to archaeological criteria, establishing four different sections. The first section, Primitive and Ancient Times, was assigned to the experts Fernando Fulgosio, José María Escudero de la Peña and Antonio Rodríguez Villa. The second section, Middle Ages and Early Modern Era, was entrusted to Manuel de Assas y Ereño, Joaquín Tomeo and Ángel de Gorostízaga. The third section was dedicated to Numismatics and Dactylography, under Francisco Bermúdez de Sotomayor, Carlos Castrobeza and Juan de Dios de la Rada y Delgado, and the fourth section was Ethnography, with Juan de Malibrán, Juan Sala and Tomás Tapia y Vela.
Ventura Ruiz Aguilera organised his staff into “scientific committees” with the mission of acquiring objects to augment the collections. [The most notable of these committees was formed by Juan de Dios Rada y Delgado and Juan de Malibrán, who visited Oviedo and Santander, León, Palencia, Toledo, Alicante and Murcia. Meanwhile, Paulino Savirón went to Aragón, and subsequently, he and Malibrán, who was later replaced by Ruiz Aguilera himself, led the expeditions at Cerro de los Santos (Albacete). At the recommendation of Rada y Delgado, a special committee led by the former in his capacity as archaeologist and including the diplomat and Hellenist Jorge Zammit and the artist Velázquez Bosco, accompanied the frigate Arapiles in the summer of 1871 on its voyage around the Mediterranean, charged with the mission of acquiring new pieces for the museum. With Ventura Ruiz Aguilera still at the helm, the museum finally opened to the public on 9 July 1871, after its inauguration by King Amadeus I.
The publication of what was unofficially regarded as the museum’s magazine commenced in 1872. Entitled Museo Español de Antigüedades, this sumptuous journal was edited by Juan de Dios de la Rada and his deputy José Gil Dorregaray.
On 10 May 1872 Ventura Ruiz Aguilera resigned from his post as director, although he continued to work at the National Archaeological Museum as an expert until he passed away in 1881. Salto de línea