The largest cash bequest in the institute's history, with a potential value of nearly $38 million after the estate is settled, will be earmarked for acquisitions. Edinburg, who died in January 2015 at the age of 94, was a collector of prints and drawings from the fifteenth through twentieth centuries and Chinese ceramics from the Tang and Song dynasties who donated more than fifteen hundred works to the museum between 1991 and 2014. Over the years, the institute mounted numerous exhibitions from her collection, while her largest gift, in 2013, comprised nearly eight hundred mostly European works on paper and a hundred and fifty Asian works, including stoneware and porcelains.
"What makes this gift special is that it's earmarked for acquisitions and specifically in the area of prints and drawings from the Renaissance to 1960 and Asian art, with an emphasis on ceramics," Art Institute director and president Douglas Druick told Crain's." It's a legacy. It allows us to grow her collection in an organic and dynamic way into the future."
Edinburg's vast collection began with her parents, who collected eighteenth-century French furniture, Chinese porcelain, and artist books; she began purchasing art on her own while still a student at Wellesley. Her father had served as president of Chandler & Farquhar hardware suppliers in Boston, where her husband, Joseph Edinburg, later was an executive.
"After meeting her in 1991, we worked with her on a monthly if not a weekly basis," Druick told the Chicago Tribune. "She would continue her purchases of works of art but making them with a view to giving them to us. 'Do you like this? Do you need this?' She was building for our collection with works that particularly attracted her."