About Milbry Polk
Since my earliest years, I have loved to visit new places and learn about different cultures. My experiences growing up in Egypt, Virginia and Massachusetts lead me to study Anthropology at Harvard. After graduating, I was fortunate enough to work with Margaret Mead, starting the Film Festival named for her at the American Museum of Natural History. She urged me to go into the field and have lots of “experiences.”
Following her advice, I spent a decade roaming through North Africa, the Middle East and Asia on expeditions and as a freelance photographer and writer. Having unusual and often challenging “experiences” as a woman led me to founding with my dear friend, Leila Hadley Luce, an organization to support women explorers. It went through several incarnations and is now known as WINGS WorldQuest.
Through WINGS we created a marvelous community of women around the world who are making exciting discoveries about every aspect of our planet. From the depths of the sea to the outer reaches of space, from interpreting ancient cultures to discovering unknown aspects of animal and plant wildlife, these women bring a fresh vision to our understanding of the life forces on the planet.
Along the way, I wrote and edited a dozen books, including Women of Discovery with Mary Tiegreen, The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad, and Egyptian Mummies. I have contributed chapters to several books including The Great Explorers, Oxford’s American National Biography, and They Lived to Tell the Tale. For the last 20 years, my book reviews have appeared in The Explorers Journal and other magazines.
As an explorer I have had the opportunity to immerse myself in various landscapes and now share these stories at events, conferences, universities, schools, organizations, and clubs. I have been an expedition leader and speaker on cruises and land trips, most recently on two expeditions for Adventure Canada in the Arctic. I also consult for non-profit management and project development.
Currently I am working on several projects. One is a book about my great grandmother, Mollie Harding Polk, whose life in Tennessee during and after the Civil War and later in hardscrabble Fort Worth, Texas, has inspired me to persevere in style no matter the circumstances. Another is helping create a World Exploration Summit. I am in the fourth year of co-chairing The Polar Film Festival at The Explorers Club.
Building on my work of the past 20 years I continue to assemble a global community of women explorers whose discoveries are adding to world knowledge. We are posting news items on the Women of Discovery Facebook page. I have assembled a personal library of more than 1000 books written by and about women explorers.
There are so many amazing places to explore and learn about the world that surrounds us. I hope through my photographs that I can convey that sense of wonder and mystery that is everywhere.
I believe exploration is critical to our world today as we are challenged on so many fronts. Explorers are making discoveries that help the rest of us to understand the complexity and interdependency of our world, so that we have the means to make more informed choices going forward.
2015 Joseph-Elzéar Bernier Medal, Royal Canadian Geographic Society
2011 Alumnae Achievement Award, Madeira School. Greenway, Virginia
2011 Anne Morrow Lindbergh Award, Lindbergh Foundation
2010 Fellow, Wings WorldQuest
2007 Women’s Environmental Leadership Award, Unity College, Maine
2005 Honorary Fellow, FRCGS (Hon) The Royal Canadian Geographical Society
2003 Leader of the 21st Century, WomensENews.org