He was born in Bergen; the son of Fredrik Meltzer Wallem and Louise Adelaide Barbe. He studied archeology and art history at the University of Kristiania. His thesis from 1910 treated equipments in Icelandic churches of the Middle Ages. In 1916 he wrote a book on the first hundred years of the Norwegian Students' Society. He was manager of the Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum in Trondheim from 1920 to 1945, and lectured at the Norwegian Institute of Technology. He was a member of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters.