Dr Walter Leo Hildburgh was born in New York in 1876. After obtaining a PhD from Columbia University he worked in scientific research. A man of independent means, however, he pursued a range of interests: he became an international figure-skater (known as ‘The Egg’ on account of his premature baldness), was an excellent swimmer, and studied folklore (he became a member of the Folklore Society in 1906), anthropology, and magic. In 1912 Hildburgh settled in London and became a frequent visitor to the Victoria and Albert Museum. His gifts to the Museum over the years (including his bequest) amounted to over 5,000 objects, mostly to the Metalwork and Sculpture departments. On the occasion of his seventieth birthday in 1946, Hildburgh presented to the Museum 300 examples of English alabasters. Hildburgh was elected to the fellowship of the Society of Antiquaries in 1915, and was awarded a D.Litt in the History of Art from the University of London in 1937. He died in London in 1955, aged 79. An exhibition of objects given by Hildburgh opened in 1958.
Information in the V&A ArchiveMA/1/H1954: Nominal file – Dr W. L. Hildburgh
A0454: correspondence, research notes, photographs, publications, typescript drafts and mss of publication relating to English alabasters and alabaster carvings (1936-1955)
Selected printed works
English alabasters: from the Hildburgh collection. London: HMSO, 1956). NAL pressmark: VA.1956.Box.0009
Oakes, Catherine. ‘Dr Hildburgh and the English medieval alabaster.’ In Journal of the History of Collections 18, no.1 (2006): 71-83: NAL pressmark: PP.69.E
To locate material in the National Art Library, please search the Library Catalogue