inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #0 of 48: Julieswan (julieswn) Sun 26 Sep 10 10:34
This week we welcome Eva Timothy to Inkwell.vue, to discuss her new
book, Lost in Learning.

Eva Timothy has been fascinated by history for as long as she can
remember. Growing up in Europe she was continually surrounded by the
stories of the great explorers, artists and inventors. Eva’s
photographic work has been exhibited internationally, and is included
in the George Eastman House Library, the Smithsonian, and theLibrary of
Congress Permanent Collection in the US.  In the UK, her work may be
seen in the Fox Talbot Museum, the British Library, Green Templeton
College at Oxford University, and the Victoria Albert Museum.

In Lost in Learning: The Art of Discovery, Eva draws from her life of
learning, history and art to draw us into her creative worldview.

Interviewing Eva will be our own <lrph>, Lisa Harris:

Lisa Harris is a mother, business owner, reader, and educator.  Lisa
taught fourth grade twenty years ago and is currently seeking to return
to the classroom.  She is a co-host of the Inkwell.vue conference
hereon The WELL and an active member in the Wine and Words book club of
West Palm Beach, FL.  For fun, Lisa likes to bake bread and play board
games (Scrabble, Pictionary, Boggle, Yahtzi, Backgammon, etc.).
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #1 of 48: Lisa Harris (lrph) Sun 26 Sep 10 15:35
Thanks for the introduction, Julie. 

Hi Eva.  Thank you for this absolutely beautiful book.  You write so
much of inspiration, I'll start by asking you about yours.  Where and
how were you inspired to write this book/create this exhibition?
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #2 of 48: Lisa Harris (lrph) Mon 27 Sep 10 07:46
Oh! And while we're at it...

Which came first, the exhibition or the book?
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #3 of 48: Eva Koleva Timothy (sees-the-day) Mon 27 Sep 10 15:34
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #4 of 48: Eva Koleva Timothy (sees-the-day) Mon 27 Sep 10 15:43
Thank you Julie and Lisa great question to kick things off. 

My love of history was the primary source of inspiration. I enjoy
getting into people’s lives, their minds and dreams and learning from
what happened in ages past. 

I know there are a lot of people who have learned to regard history
and learning generally as a rote exercise memorization dates, names

A big part of my inspiration for this project and book was to infuse
the excitement of what learning can be and how much history has to
teach us about the adventures, discoveries and passions of people not
so much different than ourselves in many respects. 

As far as that specific moment when "lightning struck", so to speak...

I was reading the Discoverers, by Daniel Boorstin one night. 

He wrote about the discovery of the New World. Apparently we don't
have any record of a book or journal Columbus left, but we do have the
notes he left in the margins of his copy of Imago Mundi by Pierre
d’Ailly. The moment I read that Columbus own handwriting was in this
book somewhere, I knew I had to find it and photograph it. The rest of
the project followed from that instance.

The book followed a couple of years behind the exhibition. 
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #5 of 48: Lisa Harris (lrph) Tue 28 Sep 10 05:41
How fabulous that your inspiration began with a book I adore! 
Boorstin's books kicked off my own interest in reading solely
non-fiction for the past few years.  "The Discoverers" made history
interesting for the first time for me.  

Now we know about your inspiration.  I thought Columbus was a great
choice to open the Voyage section of your book, however I was surprised
that  all of the people you wrote about were European.  There is a
rich history of discovery and learning dating back to ancient China and
the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia.  Why didn't you choose any of the
historical figures from those areas?  
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #6 of 48: Eva Koleva Timothy (sees-the-day) Tue 28 Sep 10 08:58
Glad to hear that you enjoyed Boorstin as much as I did!

I'm sure a big part my decision to focus on Europe was my roots and
upbringing. I grew up in Eastern Europe, immersed in the stories of
these people so I felt more of a connection to them. Being on that side
of the Iron Curtain too, I was generally more interested in the
Western world than the Orient.

In the end I decided to focus on The European Age of Discovery as a
window in time which was an apex of cultural inspiration, curiosity and
voyaging into unknown waters, both literally and figuratively.
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #7 of 48: Lisa Harris (lrph) Tue 28 Sep 10 15:01
How did you get access to all the wonderful art which you
photographed?  And aside from the obvious Imago Mundi, which you
already mentioned, how did you choose your art subjects?  
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #8 of 48: Eva Koleva Timothy (sees-the-day) Wed 29 Sep 10 04:49
For this project I needed to be able to arrange manuscripts, portraits
and period works of art in ways that would not have been possible with
the originals. So I created a makeshift copy stand and visited the
special collections of libraries here in New England in order to obtain

The History of Science Department at Harvard University was also very
generous in allowing me to photograph their scientific instrument
collection for the project.

I choosing the subjects, I read a lot of biographies and researched
which original manuscripts and portraits would best represent the
figures I was studying. I think my photographer's bias may have entered
in here a bit as I ended up working with Opticks by Sir Isaac Newton
and Galileo's sketch of the moon as he viewed it through the telescope
lens for the first time. Da Vinci has always been a favorite and I was
excited to discover a prominent Renaissance woman in Isabella d'Este;
she was someone whom I could relate to and who had been painted by Da

Once the subjects were chosen, the art of bringing these people and
this era to life began. I raided numerous antique shops looking for
artifacts (primarily different lenses) which had been a part of that
era and which I could incorporate in the photographs. 
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #9 of 48: Teleological dyslexic (ceder) Wed 29 Sep 10 20:56
Greetings Eva and Lisa,

I was fortunate enough to get a copy of your wonderful book!

It is inspiring to see the lenses focusing into each page.

The reflectivity in your book allows me to see differently every time
I read through it.

Clare Eder
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #10 of 48: Lisa Harris (lrph) Thu 30 Sep 10 06:53
I couldn't agree more!  

Now about education.  You talk a lot about inspiration and imagination
being the key ingredients in the making of these geniuses.  You used
an analogy between seafarer and landlubber to describe the difference
between those that have the inspiration or spark and those who don't. 
Can you elaborate on that theme?
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #11 of 48: bill braasch (bbraasch) Thu 30 Sep 10 13:08
Your book is beautiful, as is your website

Your photography is wonderful, but you also express your insights on
learning very inspirationally in the words you wrote.  Your curiosity was
drawn to great inventors and discoverers, but your enthusiasm for learning
is inspiring at any point in the voyage.

I'm reminded of Lewis Hyde's book, _The Gift_, about the transition of art
from something that was exchanged into something that was bought and sold.
Curiosity is like art in a way as it can lose its wonder in a commercial

Lisa's question about seafarers and landlubbers gets at the choices we make,
and you write about how early experience influences us in making those
choices.  I'd also like to hear your thoughts on ways we might make the best
of our curiosities.
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #12 of 48: Eva Koleva Timothy (sees-the-day) Thu 30 Sep 10 17:51
Welcome Clare and Bill and great questions all.

I feel that most unfortunately our formal education systems often
encourages us to develop the habit of landlubbers.

Instead of seeking out the new and exciting which has just captured
our imaginations, we learn to treat our deep held interests as
“distractions” to what is “really” important, we learn to rely on
“experts” for our knowledge and we learn to avoid risk-taking and being

Curiosity can be scary. We don't know where it's going to lead us. We
might get really into something and that might lead to something else
and before long we have lost our bearings and we most definitely have
become distracted. That's how the seafarer sets sail, without knowing
the precise route; for who can perfectly predict the wind?

But when something does catch our intellectual fancy, it's important
that we don't just discount it as irrelevant to making money, or
getting our errands done or whatever other mundane quest we have set to
keep ourselves from taking risks. 

With the busy demands of a high-tech modern life, this can be easier
said than done. I find though that spending time with children, sharing
stories, reading great books, making art, writing poetry or engaging
in any other non-linear, creative activity tends to awaken this
curiosity within us. 

Once awoken it's really just a matter of not shushing it or allowing
it to fall back into dormancy. After a while it just becomes a part of
who we are. We start inquiring more, our interests become deeper and
our questions more profound. 

Thanks for the suggestion of The Gift. My favorite book on this
subject of seeing life through a child's curious eyes is Antoine de
Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince. 
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #13 of 48: descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Thu 30 Sep 10 20:02

Now that I'm retired, I've naturally become interested in what people
have done later in life and am finding some truly inspiring stories
about what can happen when people are free of daily responsibilities.
You could even say that I'm energized!
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #14 of 48: bill braasch (bbraasch) Thu 30 Sep 10 21:45
I agree that the school system can drive you toward a goal in a way that
forces curiosity to the sidelines.  My son returned from Jr year of college
with stories about classmates who had discovered they didn't look forward to
the work they were learning to do.  He was happy with his choice and was
passing a warning to his younger sister who then changed her major.

Living longer gives us a chance to be serial curiosity seekers.  I suggested
to the kids that they don't try to take a long view on their choice of work,
but instead work on what interests them now with the understanding that they
will probably chase a few different interests over the course of their

When I started working it was alongside people who expected to stay with the
job for a career.  The pace of change has made that far less likely.  Our
longer lifespans open more doors to change.

I wonder how many Da Vinci's were stuck in landlubber jobs in days past,
and what great ideas might come from career landlubbers newly energized.
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #15 of 48: Lisa Harris (lrph) Fri 1 Oct 10 04:38
Frankly, I think school and academic pursuits to some extent are
wasted on the very young.  Sure, they need basic skills, but the
inspirational pursuit of knowledge comes with age and maturity.  To
expect that from a nine year old seems like setting everyone up for
failure.  Nine year olds are curious, sure, but only for a moment and
then they're off.  Not all nine year olds, of course, but many.
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #16 of 48: Eva Koleva Timothy (sees-the-day) Fri 1 Oct 10 12:09
I think what we're really looking at here isn't a question of age. 

It's more about what (jmcarlin) is talking about - freedom - and not
just from daily responsibilities. 

We can be deeply curious at any age, but as kids we are coached to
respond to questions posed by textbooks instead of looking at the
questions that come from within. It doesn't take long for those
questions to become more of a chore than a catalyst to exploration.

When we get older, for many of us, it's the first time we experience
the autonomy to ask our own questions and pursue our own interests.
It's energizing and inspiring because it comes from within us and it's
our own decision to pursue it. 

Young children and teens have the capacity for inspiration and
unwavering pursuit of knowledge. Just look at how quickly they can pick
up complex technologies, skills and/or solve difficult problems when
they feel it is relevant and they want it for themselves. 

I do agree that curiosity in children is less focused. They've got
more ground to cover so the minute they feel like they've got something
they often lose interest and move to the next item of interest. This
is natural and one more reason why insistently drilling facts or skills
once the interest is gone, in young children, does little more than
stifle the momentum for real learning.
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #17 of 48: . (wickett) Fri 1 Oct 10 15:38

I very much enjoy looking at your photographs, rich, complex, and fresh.  It
is a gift to entice the eyes to return.
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #18 of 48: bill braasch (bbraasch) Sat 2 Oct 10 10:41
our older three kids advised their younger sister to skip middle school as
it had been a waste of time for them.  fortunately for michelle, a new all
girls middle school was forming nearby (Julia Morgan school in Oakland), so
she transferred there.

she had a writing teacher there who really helped her gain confidence in
her ability to write, which in turn has her learning Spanish to get a degree
in comparative literature.

she built her own gaming computer when she was about 11 years old, and now
she has her own computer readout thing for her car (so she can clear her own
error codes without paying some repair shop), but she's not drawn to
engineering because math sucks.

schooling out to be seen more as a survey to find what interests you than a
contest to see how you score on the tests, but we'd need a way to measure
the ability of a learning style to inspire interests.

any thoughts on how we might measure the success of a learning system in
terms of its ability to provoke curiosity and inspire interests?
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #19 of 48: . (wickett) Sat 2 Oct 10 13:10

I bait as many hooks as I can and follow where the student leads.  Anything
(math, language, critical thinking) can be taught once the enthusiasm has
been ignited.

This works one-on-one, of course, but not for a disparate group.
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #20 of 48: Eva Koleva Timothy (sees-the-day) Sat 2 Oct 10 15:08
I think it is possible to measure a learning system by the enthusiasm
it generates. Whenever we measure something we tend to try to affect it
directly instead of looking at the root causes and indirect affects.
In education we measure test scores so we start teaching to a test.

If we believe that enthusiasm and motivation really are prerequisites
for inspired effective learning, we would need to take a long view of
this and start measuring how students feel about their educational
experiences. Giving students a meaningful voice about what they want to
study and how they like to be taught would affect policy and teaching
immediately. Technology is continually increasing our ability to reach
students individually without having to scale up teaching resources
(see Clayton Christensen's bok Disrupting Class). 

Test scores might take a while to show the positive results of a more
student centric system, but they would follow. After all we have
historical examples which show us what happens when a civilization gets

So here's a question: what do you think it was about the Renaissance
period that caused learning to advance so rapidly?
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #21 of 48: Lisa Harris (lrph) Sat 2 Oct 10 17:19
The Dark Ages.  

The problem with teaching through inspiration and child-directed
learning is the evaluation of children's development.  There is no
doubt that Maria Montessori was on to something when she developed
manipulatives to inspire students to seek knowledge and learning.  But
it is very challenging to design tests which evaluate those outcomes. 
We are an outcome based society, much to my dismay.  And if it's hard
to test then it won't be the standard.  

inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #22 of 48: Lisa Harris (lrph) Sun 3 Oct 10 06:54
Just re-reading that post and I realized that I forgot to mention that
I am not so outcome-based, but until we realize as a nation that we
can't test and evaluate every single thing we do, then we will be stuck
with what we have in one form or another.
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #23 of 48: bill braasch (bbraasch) Sun 3 Oct 10 09:44
my dad was school principal at a juvenile home in Chicago when the Plato
system was brought in for evaluation.  It knew who you were and it paced the
learning based on how the student was doing, also gave the student feedback
with comparative test rankings.

he had kids who did very well in math who had done something not so well to
get sentenced in his school.  personal recognition by the teacher, something
of a challenge, good feedback and encouragement seemed to work together.
Back then, this required a control data mainframe connection and I suppose a
federal grant.

instead of test scores, we need to measure engagement and reward goals.
Mafia Wars, Farmville, World of Warcraft take advantage of the same
techniques that were in Plato software about 40 years ago, but collaborative
learning hasn't taken hold in the classroom.

we don't hear so much about da Vinci's sidekicks, but it seems he must have
had a few.  he'd have been someone's understudy at a point, then a
colleague, then a luminary.

there's a story in the NYTimes today about Sheryl Sandberg, Mark
Zuckerberg's handler at Facebook.  He saw the opporunity and took it on, but
she's the one who keeps the wheels on it.  In a sense, she's the teacher.

I've not seen the movie, but I'm told the lawyers provide adult supervision
as the entrepreneurs work through the issues.

we need to find our way back to the apprentice model.  maybe Farmville will
pave some cornfields and put up a college.
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #24 of 48: . (wickett) Sun 3 Oct 10 11:25

How about dismantling some parking lots and building a college amidst a 
revivied natural environment within which kids learn, experiment, and 

Of course, in addition, everyone needs a shared core of knowledge.  That's 
tough with diversity prioritized to extremes, or so I found when I was 
teaching college.  

As for da Vinci, he was taught by, among others, Luca Pacioli, Franciscian 
friar and author of the first treatise on double entry bookkeeping!  da 
Vinci sought instruction from him in geometry and proportion, not 
bookkeeping (or at least not to my knowledge).
inkwell.vue.393 : Eva Timothy, "Lost in Learning"
permalink #25 of 48: Mostly not sure (gertiestn) Sun 3 Oct 10 19:33
If da Vinci had mastered bookkeeping, he might have saved for
retirement the real work of his life. I found myself reading "Lost in
Learning" and thinking more and more about retirement; I was somewhat
taken aback to see that (jmcarlin) beat me to it in introducing the
topic. It's never too late to unlearn, I hope. 


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