A scroll from India unfurls discussion among professors

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On December 26, 2004, an earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia, set in motion a series of tsunamis that bulldozed areas of southeast Asia and killed more than 220,000 people in 12 countries.

Eight years later, Colgate professors on a faculty development trip to India stopped in the Delhi Craft Museum, where a 7-foot–tall scroll depicting the tsunami caught their attention. Its creator, Momi Chitrakar, performed for them a mournful song about the painting. The moment sparked a lively, on-the-spot exchange among the professors, who shared their own academic perspectives on the tsunami and the art it inspired. They decided to buy the scroll and brought it back to campus, where they began passing it around for further discussion in classrooms and at professional conferences.

This past January, thanks to art and art history professor Liz Marlowe and support from the Teagle Foundation (see sidebar), the scroll took up residence in Case Library, in a specially built case. As part of the display, Marlowe also reignited the conversation that began in the Delhi museum by inviting professors from around campus to write mini-commentaries from the perspective of their disciplines. “Powerful objects like the tsunami scroll can pull people together in shared wonderment, curiosity, and inspiration,” Marlowe said.