Since her earliest years, Milbry Polk has held a passion for visiting new places and discovering new cultures. She grew up in Egypt, Virginia, and Massachusetts and studied anthropology at Harvard University—there, her passion only grew, and she went on to hone her exploratory talents roaming through north Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as a freelance photographer and writer. Having, in her words, “unusual and often challenging experiences as a woman,” abroad inspired her to co-found an organization dedicated to supporting women in exploration. This project went through several iterations, and is known today as WINGS WorldQuest.
From the organization’s website:
“WINGS WorldQuest’s mission is to celebrate and support extraordinary women explorers by promoting scientific exploration, education and conservation. Our work is focused in the following areas: recognition, grantmaking, outreach and community-building.
“Through Women of Discovery Awards and WINGS Fellows program, WINGS recognizes and supports the groundbreaking work of women scientists and explorers, whose discoveries advance scientific inquiry and lead to better understanding of our world.
“Outreach projects provide a platform for WINGS Fellows to share their work and inspire the next generation of intrepid explorers and global problem-solvers.”
Milbry has made waves as a pioneering ambassador for female explorers around the world. Over the course of her diverse and varied career, she has founded and directed programs for the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of the American Indian; she was Vice-Chair of the Conference on Affordable World Security in 2012. An award-winning author, her writings include Women of Discovery with Mary Tiegreen (Library Journal award Best Books of 2001 and School Library Journal, Best Books of 2002) and Egyptian Mummies (Margaret A. Edwards Award Best Books of 1998). Her impressive list of accolades and honours include the Anne Morrow Lindbergh Award (2011); Alumnae of the Year, Madeira School (2011) and the Environmental Leadership Award, Unity College. She is also an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and a Fellow of the Explorers Club. She served on the Board of Governors of the National Arts Club, and on several advisory boards for organizations such as the New York School of Visual Arts Graduate Program in Communications, the Wilbur Mills Polar Prize, George Polk Journalism Awards Committee and Takster Foundation. She has lectured at more than 150 schools and universities, inspiring others with her tireless work ethic and lifelong dedication to the field of exploration.