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This showcase is a tribute to our museum’s first female curators, women who paved the way and worked for the benefit of future generations.

Although women had been admitted to Spanish universities since 1868, female graduates in Philosophy and Letters did not access to the Specialized Corps of Archivists, Librarians and Archaeologists until 1910. More than forty years behind their male colleagues, the first woman to pass the public examination, she does so in 1913 as a librarian and the first to hold a curator position will join the Corps in 1922.

Photo credits.

We are grateful to the families of Isabel de Ceballos Escalera y Contreras and Felipa Niño Más, as well as to the ArqueólogAs project (PD 2019-110748GB-100), for authorising the use of these images.


Museum curators paved the way for the professionalization of the Archaeology in our country. Along with their male counterparts, women played a key role in the renewal of Spanish museum institutions. The first generations were educated in the wake of the Institución Libre de Enseñanza or participated in the 1933 Mediterranean Cruise, a unique study trip that brought together a substantial group of professors and students, contributing to the advancement of Spanish archaeology. Others came on board after the Spanish Civil War and actively participated in the reopening of museums and research initiatives launched after the conflict.

Over the years since then, the museums of our country have become predominantly female spaces.

María del Pilar Fernández Vega
Villadiego, Burgos, 8 de noviembre de 1895-Madrid, 4 de julio de 1973

The first woman to qualify as a Museum Curator of Spain, in 1928 Fernández joined the Museo Arqueológico Nacional, where she managed the collection of American and Far Eastern Antiquities. In 1941 she was appointed director of the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas and the newly created Museo de América, holding both posts until her retirement.

> Tonalá jar (Jalisco, México). 17th century. On loan from the Museo de América

Benavente, Zamora, 13 de octubre de 1902-Madrid, 12 de enero de 1992

After earning a PhD in Philosophy and Letters, with the highest honours, from the Universidad Central of Madrid in 1933, that same year Niño competed for and was awarded a place at the Museo Arqueológico Nacional, where she spent most of her career until retiring in 1972. An expert on industrial arts, she was responsible for the museum’s textile collection and became its deputy director in 1968.

> Coptic textile. (Akhmim, Egypt). 8th-9th century

Isabel Clarisa Millán García de Cáceres
Calatayud, Zaragoza, 18 de febrero de 1910- Madrid, 14 de junio de 1990

With a BA in Philosophy and Letters, in 1940 Millán worked for the Comisaría General de Excavaciones alongside the archaeologist Julio Martínez Santa-Olalla. She joined the MAN staff two years later, after directing the Provincial Museum of Soria. As head of the Numismatics Section, she was also involved in setting up the new exhibition of Roman collections after the Spanish Civil War.

> Oscillum (Fuente-Tójar, Córdoba). 1st century

María Luisa Galván Cabrerizo
Madrid, 21 de junio de 1911-31 de marzo de 2008

Galván became a Curator in 1944 and joined the Museo Arqueológico Nacional two years later, where she worked in the Coins and Medals and the Islamic and Early Modern Era departments, playing a prominent role in installing the museum’s new exhibition after the Spanish Civil War. In 1972 she was named director of the Museo Nacional del Teatro.

> Caliphate-period bottle (Córdoba). 10th century

María Luisa Oliveros Rives
Zaragoza, 27 de octubre de 1912-Lucena, Córdoba 23 de noviembre de 2003

Trinidad Taracena del Piñal

Santander 26 de octubre de 1926-Ceuta, 24 de julio de 2017

Oliveros and Taracena followed very similar career paths. Graduates of the Universidad Central of Madrid, they both served as directors of the Museo Arqueológico de Toledo and worked on installing the MAN’s permanent exhibition in 1954. In the 1950s, they were tasked with unpacking, organising and creating the first inventory of the Siret collection, one of the most important at the museum.

> Idols from Almizaraque (Almería). Third millennium BC

María Braña de Diego
Madrid, 28 de noviembre de 1912-Zaragoza, 27 de octubre de 2007

Educated at the Instituto Escuela, Braña participated in the 1933 Mediterranean cruise. After working as a teacher, she passed the specialist exams in 1945. She served as director of the Archivo Histórico Provincial de Segovia and the Museo Arqueológico de Toledo and joined the MAN staff in 1950. An expert on early modern pottery, she was president of the Association of University Women.

> Inkstand from the Alcora Royal Manufactory (Castellón). Mid-18th century

María Luisa Herrera Escudero
Santander, 3 de diciembre 1913 – Madrid, 17 de agosto de 2012

After directing the Museo Arqueológico de Toledo, in 1944 Herrera came to the MAN, where she worked for nearly thirty years as head of the Medieval and Early Modern Era Section. She also wrote El museo en la Educación (1971), the first museology manual published in the Spanish language. In 1971 she was promoted to director of the Museo del Pueblo Español, a post she held until her retirement in 1983.

> Hispano-Visigothic jug. 7th century

MarÍa Luz Navarro Mayor
Soria, 8 de abril de 1918-Madrid, 14 de abril de 2014

In 1944, Navarro passed the exams to qualify as a Museum Curator and Assistant Secondary School Teacher, practising both professions throughout her career. After being appointed director of the Museo Arqueológico de Gerona, in 1960 she joined the MAN staff, and in 1978 she was promoted to head of the Numismatics Section, where she made the collections available to researchers.

> Fifty-real coin (cincuentín) of Philip IV. Segovia. 1633

Segovia, 29 de mayo de 1919-Madrid, 29 de marzo de 1990

Assigned to the MAN in 1946, two years after passing her exams, Ceballos ended her professional career at the helm of the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas, which she had directed since 1974. An expert on Spanish pottery, she was a corresponding member of the Hispanic Society of America. She participated in several archaeological digs, including the excavation of the Visigothic necropolis of Duratón, Segovia.

> Apothecary jar (Manises, Valencia). Late 15th century