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Keeping a Cultural Memory Alive: University Art Programs as Mediating Systems

“We transmit meanings so that the things we live, believe, and think do not perish with us …” (Regis Debray, 2000, p. 3) 

Artwork from UNIBEN

An Introduction

We live in a world of artefacts. Whether they are analog, digital or a hybrid mixture, the post-modern globalized culture is highly influenced by the artworld. For art to have precedence it needs a place to live – and these spaces are offered through institutions such as museums, libraries, archives and schools. Initially, one may visualize such institutions in their physical geographical context, housed in structures or buildings. However, institutions are quickly building their presence in the digital, online world to reduce the ever-growing intricacies of access to cultural history. With a realization that art is critical to preserving cultural history, this multimedia paper aims to answer the question of: how does an emerging nation participate in the artworld?

Media theory will be used to answer this question and support the view that university art departments and art programs have a significant role in preserving cultural artefacts. This includes paintings, sculptures, instruments, statues – virtually all categories of art. Academic institutions, especially those in developing nations, need to realize the importance of establishing a digital footprint to both preserve cultural artefacts and contribute to the artworld that is being facilitated online through platforms such as the Google Art Project. The country of Nigeria, located in West Africa, will be of specific focus throughout this project.

Theoretical Framework and Methodology

The primary argument held is that university art programs such as fine arts departments are mediating, cultural memory systems. Such departments are critical in a community’s ability to contribute to the local artworld. For significant contribution on a national or international level, universities in developing nations should place more emphasis on communal new media platforms like the Google Art Project, which has already established a system for cultural expression and preservation across multiple genres, histories, and diverse societies.


To make this case and answer how Nigeria participates in the artworld both offline and online, the project will proceed as follows: first, mediation and mediating systems from Regis Debray’s perspective will be explored. Mediation studies is used to argue that universities are institutions where art can be transmitted, not just communicated. To support this claim, two university art departments in Nigeria followed by the Google Art Project platform will be analyzed, or de-blackboxed. Then, the concept of the future museum and reproducibility are characterized by building off the theories of André Malraux and Walter Benjamin. Lastly, thoughts about Pierre Bourdieu’s cultural capital model will be adopted.

Although there have been significant work done on the topics of art, the artworld, libraries and archives in the information age, there is minimal scholarly work discussing the role that university art departments play as mediators transmitting culture in the artworld. Even though Floridi’s (2010) work focused on information and computing, he had a useful point about the world we live in today: “the threshold between here (analogue, carbon-based, off-line) and there (digital, silicon-based, online) is fast becoming blurred” (p. 15). We are constantly being surrounded by analog and digital information whether it involves art or other objects such as fashion, music, or literature. Preservation of culture is invaluable, and art is just one way to engage in it.

A Brief Overview of Art History in Nigeria 


With a strong historical influence from Britain, Nigeria is the most populated nation in Africa with over 250 different ethnic groups and twice as many indigenous languages (“CIA,” 2013). One of the native groups in Nigeria, the Edo people, illustrates the cultural diversity of the nation. The Edo State Government’s website, a medium in and of itself, explains how “effigies of Obas, heroes and heroines were molded for posterity,” and “media such as bronze, brass, mud (terracotta), ebony 

wood and ivory feature in these works of art” (“Arts and Craft”, 2013). The term “oba” refers to traditional rulers (kings) of certain native groups. Artists for centuries have been making statues, sculptures, and figurines as a way to honor the obas. What has differentiated the Edo culture since the 13th century are the Benin bronze artworks created by indigenous artists and the nation’s leading brass industry in Africa (“Arts and Craft,” 2013). It can be assumed that all of the cultural variations in the region influence the vast number of cultural artworks created by these native groups. With this overview in place, demonstrating how Nigerian university art departments mediate historical and modern cultural artefacts can be shown

 Mediating Systems as Cultural Memory – Debray  

For Debray, transmission equals making culture (2000). It is transmission that really makes our experiences, thoughts and beliefs have a cultural legacy instead of vanishing with us individually (2000). This is based on Debray’s term mediology, in which he defines this interdisciplinary approach as a way to “bring to light the function of medium in all its forms, over a long time span and without becoming obsessed by today’s media” (1999, p. 32). In other words, Debray wants mediums to receive just as much credit and hype as “new” media or traditional media receive. Mediology is simply another vehicle to analyze the commingling networks of technology and culture without limiting oneself to formal disciplines such as sociology, history or communication theory (Vandenberghe, 2007).

It is through institutions, Debray argues, (libraries, schools, governmental systems) that structure meanings (M. Irvine, Media Theory lecture, Jan. 23, 2013). Institutions of learning in particular serve multiple purposes to teach and preserve culture. This can be through readings, texts, research, and the production of art. With similar opines to Debray, Manovich (2003) made a point to mention how institutions of modern culture “are responsible for selection what makes it into the cannon of our cultural memory and what is left behind…” and that “in general, our official cultural histories tend to privilege art…over mass industrial culture” (p. 7). This applies to universities, especially art departments. They are comparable to a museum due to their function of engaging humans in the transmission of culture through coursework, lectures, production of artefacts, and so on. They all have lasting effects. With this deeper understanding of Debray and mediation now in place, an analysis of two major tertiary-level art programs in Nigeria (and later another country) is meant to shed new light on how these institutions create cultural meanings and participate in the artworld.

University Art Programs in Nigeria 

Two universities that have established fine or creative art programs in Nigeria will be examined. First, The University of Benin (UNIBEN) will be explored, followed by the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) as a way to see how art is being reproduced and preserved in an emerging country. These findings will then be juxtaposed with the Google Art Project, a completely online-based art venture.


The University of Benin combined its smaller art programs into the Fine and Applied Arts department in 1987 (“Fine and Applied Arts,” 2013). This is a standard four-year degree-granting program for students who wish to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in the specialization areas of: painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, textile design/technology, metal design or art history. Analyzing UNIBEN’s website tells a great deal about the institution’s capabilities and approaches to participating in the artworld. When browsing through UNIBEN’s Fine and Applied Arts website, one will find standard website formats, with headers, footers, hyperlinks and pictures. For the purposes of mediation, the Gallery button presents an interface that highlights some of the artworks on display in the university’s own art gallery.

UNIBEN’s art department website

What stands out is the remediation of UNIBEN’s physical art gallery into a digital format, via its website. When navigating through the site, users see a box-like interface that acts as a “window” into the artworld of UNIBEN’s art department. Vandenberghe’s (2007) summary of Debray applies to the instance when “…the intervention of concrete material objects like monuments and documents, bodies and bikes, vocal chords, radios and computer screens…make the production of ideas, their diffusion through space and their transmission through time, possible” (p. 29). Actual physical artefacts can now be viewable thousands of miles away. This includes native cloths (slides 3 and 10), textile-producing machines (slide 4), canvas paintings (slides 5 and 6), plus intricate sculptures and pottery (slides 1 and 2). These representations of culture connect people despite geographical distances. More importantly, when looking at this from a mediologists’ point of view, these physical and digital artefacts store memory and allow for the “temporal reproduction through the transmission of culture from generation to generation” (Vandenberghe, 2007, p. 26).

Currently, there are 14 slides one can traverse through on UNIBEN’s online art gallery. Without the institution explicitly stating so, users can infer that this institution may have limited resources to place their artefacts online (note the reduced image quality and sparse pictures). Nevertheless, UNIBEN is participating in the artworld.



The other university art department under analysis of mediation studies is the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). The university’s Fine and Applied Arts department like UNIBEN, offers a B.A. degree for students with specializations in art education, art history, studio art, textiles, ceramics, visual communication, painting and sculpture (“University Academics,” 2013). UNN’s art department has a unique history. Founded in 1961, the department’s early teachers were either British or American and brought a strong influence of the Western styles of naturalism and pictorial realism (“General Information,” 2012). By the late 1970s, the civil war in Nigeria was over and art production and teaching began to shift towards depictions of indigenous life, nature, and the newfound Nigerian identity (“General Information,” 2012).

The University of Nigeria, Nsukka has also made efforts to participate in the artworld. Instead of doing so by means of their own website, this effort can be seen though a university-related project initiated in 1991 known as The Pan-African Circle of Artists (PACA).  The mission of this group initially was to “create a forum on which art and culture in Africa could be promoted and disseminated from inside by Africans and on Africa’s terms,” while evolving to stress “re-imaging the arts in Africa” (“The Pan African Circle,” 2013). Their efforts function similar to that of a museum, which is to preserve culture and extrapolate future value. As Debray puts it, “there could never have been a modern museum without first a politically motivated creation of the national patrimony, a matter of institutional authority…” (2000, p. 14). PACA’s members, with help from the institutional powers of UNN, are able to build close associations and promote their national artistic heritage by building cultural memories that can be shared with future members.

The Pan African Circle of Artists

This is done through use of conferences, exhibitions, lectures and roundtables related to the artworld. PACA recognizes the importance of “claiming a space in the international art market” and part of its goal is to have a more collaborative art scene by exchanging ideas with the creative industry networks throughout Africa (“A Note About PACA,” 2013). Ultimately, PACA is creating a network of artists that can then share their works internationally through use of its website. This is also a demonstration of symbolic systems mutually working together. For example, PACA’s website is the platform to read text about the artists, but one can also view photos of the network in action.

 Given that PACA was founded by artists from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka it is also worthwhile to look briefly at the course requirements students in their Fine and Applied Arts departments take.  According to UNN’s course catalog, students in their first semester are required to take introductory classes in drawing, 2D and 3D design, art appreciation and the history of Nigerian art. This is in addition to required philosophy courses and an option of taking foreign languages. It is likely that many of these students will go on after their university career and continue producing in the local art domain. This can mean establishing a shop in town or working at a craft store, museum or even selling their goods in the street market. Initiatives like The Pan-African Circle of Artists allow for a two-way level of interaction of the artworld, being both hyper-local and international.

Case Study: Google Art Project 

Google Art Project

The educational institutions in Nigeria that have just been unpacked are indeed mediating systems contributing to the artworld of Nigerian artefacts. However, their impact is limited due to the political, social and economic factors of an emerging nation. By looking at the Google Art Project, we will find how this platform can be a common ground for emerging countries. They do not necessarily have to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch to share their local artworks on an international level online. The Google Art Project, started by Google, Inc., is a joint venture between the technology company and more than 150 art institutions spanning 40 countries (“FAQs,” 2013). Google maintains that:

“Few people will ever be lucky enough to be able to visit every museum or see every work of art they’re interested in but now many more can enjoy over 30 000 works of art from sculpture to architecture and drawings … all in one place.” (2013)

According to Manovich (2003), by the 1990s the artworld in the United States began to focus on ‘net art’ or “web-based pieces whose exhibition does not require much resources” other than having a PC with an Internet connection (p. 3). The Google Art Project is a modern-day implementation of an interface making two previously non-compatible things work together (a physical museum space and virtual-reality technology).

But what does this mean for artists and art institutions in the developing world? According to Debray, “there can be no cultural transmission without technological means” (2000, p. 12). It appears that the Google Art Project could be the technological means to host an art department’s cultural artefacts on a grander scale, and with higher quality images. Of course this requires, inter alia, significant improvements in the local Internet infrastructure. This is key because university art departments must adapt to changing technologies. The Google Art Project is an example of how museums are extending their purpose and illustrating a new structure of mediation (M. Irvine, Media Theory lecture, Mar. 20, 2013).

This instructional video from the Google Art Project is a prime way of visualizing how university art departments can potentially extend art mediated online. First, the user can search for specific artists, genres or museums. Then, one has the ability to “walk through” a museum or gallery and get close (digitally) to the artworks. The experience is even more interactive if using a touch screen device such as an iPad or Android tablet. After browsing, the user can finally organize their favorite interactions into individual User Galleries which can be useful for research and re-visitation of past memories. Even though time cannot be added per se, space can (M. Irvine, Media Theory lecture, Jan. 23, 2013), and these spaces are increasingly in the online world. The Google Art Project is a unique modifier of culture given its ability to place cultural goods within a cultural good. This, in effect, has the potential to make smaller-scaled art institutions as accessible as time-honored and distinguished institutions such as the Smithsonian, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), The Palace of Versailles, and The Princeton University Art Museum.

The ways in which works of art are presented have not fundamentally changed. Artefacts are still shown “in an institutional context” and in a common environment be it museums, university art galleries, exhibitions, catalogs, or markets (Irvine, 2013a). Whether this environment is online or offline is now really up to the end user. She or he could choose to travel thousands of miles to an indigenous art expo or view such works from the comfort of his or her own home computer. It depends on how much physicality the user wishes to extract from the art experience.

Why Should Cultural Mediating Systems Digitize? The Cultural Category of Art and Reproducibility

There remains an obvious question that wishes to be further explored – why exactly should cultural mediating systems digitize? I will now turn to Malraux’s cultural category of art and museums and later Benjamin’s ideas about reproducibility. The digital era is facing an ongoing problem of how to preserve the cultural memory of physical art works. This challenge first hit Malraux in the 1950s spurring him to utilize Umberto Eco’s term “cultural encyclopedia” when describing the function of museums as institutions which work to assemble and categorize different types of artefacts (Irvine, 2013b, p. 2). Thus, the museum is comparable to an encyclopedia, but on a more interactive level.

For Benjamin, his ideas rested primarily on the concepts of technological reproducibility and a challenge to technological historians. Simply put, Benjamin states how: “the work of art has always been reproducible. Objects made by humans could always be copied by humans” (2003, p.  252). It is relatively easy now to take a picture of something and upload it online, thus creating a digital copy of a once-physical object. Take for instance, the abundance of handmade pottery, baskets, furniture, cloths, shoes, jewelry, and bronze statues that are made by Nigerian artists and students. Once completed, they find their placeholder either in an art gallery, school, or personal home. For these indigenous artists, they may be simply unaware of the criticalness to reproduce their works online, even if it is as simple as uploading a photo or as detailed as working with institutions like the Google Art Project. Jones (2001) explained some of this reasoning:

“The main reasons to digitize are to enhance access and improve preservation. By digitizing their collections, cultural heritage institutions can make information accessible that was previously only available to a select group of researchers. Digital projects allow users to search collections rapidly and comprehensively from anywhere at any time” (para. 4).

This follows Benjamin’s stance that the way humans perceive culture changes over time (2003). Now, artists have expectations to make cultural artefacts that can be produced and reproduced digitally (M. Irvine, Media Theory lecture, April. 3, 2013). If an item cannot be produced digitally, what does that mean for the artist and the institutions that he or she may have a relationship with? The answer to this question will not have a linear solution.

South Africa: This Country is Mediating Culture Too, Through Art

Returning to using university art departments as examples of mediating institutions, comparing Nigeria to another country within Africa leaves room for insight about how participation in the artworld can take place in non-Western environments.

 In South Africa, a country with significantly more economic resources compared to other nations within Africa, many of their university systems have art departments or art programs. At the University of South Africa (UNISA), there is a Department of Art History, Visual Arts and Musicology. The department has a Facebook page detailing even more information about the school. Additionally, the Unisa Space Art Gallery was established in 1986 to host contemporary art and also serve as a resource for students in the forms of workshops, catalogues and research (“Unisa Space Art”).  This art gallery also has a Facebook page meant to mediate and preserve cultural goods in an online format.


Unisa Space Art Gallery

In comparison to the university art departments in Nigeria such as UNIBEN and The University of Nigeria, UNISA has a stronger online presence and format of using technology to share their cultural artefacts through a digital medium. The art department even has a list of art galleries in South Africa, a useful community resource for students, faculty and staff of the university. Moreover, South Africa is represented on the Google Art Project by the Iziko South African National Gallery, with 44 artists and 57 pieces. The South African model may be a useful tool for emerging nations like Nigeria to emulate a stronger, more structured online presence to transmit culture and participate in the artworld.

Some cultural artefacts from Iziko National Gallery

Despite the differences, cultures are proud of their work. In Benjamin’s view, scarceness is closely linked to value (2003), and reproducing cultural materials is a way to reduce some of the scarcity. Still, this leaves us with questions regarding reproducibility and cultural value. When thinking about the larger view of digitally reproducing artworks online, one should consider if any form of representation is worthwhile versus having nothing at all. Also, there may be instances in which an artwork simply cannot be reproduced – thinking about the implications this may have on culture are significant as well. 

UNIBEN vs. GAP: The Cultural Capital Gap

UNIBEN art department

UNIBEN and the Google Art Project are both mediating systems that serve the purpose of preserving art as a cultural category. Google as an institution, though, has more power to influence compared to a single art department in an emerging nation. This issue cannot be discussed without mentioning Bourdieu. In his concepts of the various forms of capital, these universities that participate in the art world via digital platforms enhance their cultural capital, particularly in the form of the objectified state. According to Bourdieu (1983), the objectified state formalizes itself through cultural goods like instruments, pictures, books, machinery and other technical devices.

The case to make here is that if UNIBEN (or other similar institutions) worked to establish a presence on Google Art Project, it would enhance the department’s robustness in the art world and feasibility to participate in the international online art world. By putting cultural goods such as paintings, sculptures, clothing and others online, the smaller-scaled institution is able to gradually build up its social capital. Social capital is key because financial benefits can result from the buildup of prestige and recognition (M. Irvine, Media Theory lecture, Mar. 20, 2013).

Google already has strong name recognition, financial stability and worldly appreciation. If UNIBEN’s or the University of Nigeria’s art galleries were featured on Google, this would enhance their networked position in the artworld. The connectedness to other institutions and users is a positive network effect which would reap more rewards (Irvine, 2013a) than remaining only connected to the local network and university’s website network. Lastly, this level of multilateral collaboration among institutions enhances the symbolic and economic value of certain artefacts (Bourdieu, 1983). If more users from various geographic regions can learn and interact with cultural goods on the Google Art Project, it builds another incentive for individuals interested in learning about indigenous cultures to do so in a new format.

Digitizing Cultural Materials – What Are the Implications?

With all the push to digitize and for cultural goods to have a strong online presence, one should reason that there are inherent implications when adapting to the constant-changing relationship between art and technology. Three major areas for thought include: the role of the artist, the influence of technology and the costs to digitize.

The Artist:

The artist who creates cultural goods has a role to share his or her creations with as wide or narrow of an audience to their liking. This is where institutions (schools, libraries, museums, etc.) come in as a way to help artists share their stories to the world. In the modern world of digitalization, the artist and institution hosting the works may have varying ideals. Manovich (2003) points out how technologies have “overtaken” art while the influx of human-computer interfaces, programming and new media innovations still portray the artists’ work “…but they extended them much further than the artists originally imagined” (p. 5). At what point may a technology intended to help the artist make them feel distant from their own work? Jones probes deeper into this question asserting “this does not mean, however, that digital copies should be seen as a replacement for the original piece” (2001) and warns how even digital formats are not permanent or negligible from care.   

Technology’s Influence:

The major selling point for digitization is its ability to translate analog materials (human-readable) to a digital format (machine-readable) (Jones, 2001). As important as this is, Jones suggests that institutions should take a quality over quantity approach when considering digitalization, since “digitizing 500, 1,000 or even 100,000 images means nothing if they are low quality, hard to locate in a database, or not interesting to the public” (2001). Adding to the social influence of technology, Malraux wanted us to think about the shifting consequences of turning museum collections (entire historical cultural artefacts) into digital formats (1951). Rare cultural objects can now be easily accessible to the mass populations, but we should be careful to characterize the modern museums as flawlessly democratic or fostering equal-access to all (1951). Malraux’s La Musée Imaginaire (“The Museum Without Walls”) was written more than 50 years ago, but his discourse is still applicable today.

UNIBEN art students at work


In addition to the individual and technological implications to digitizing cultural artefacts, there are a number of costs, both financially and socially that must be accounted for. Jones (2001) explains how taking on the task to digitize analog materials can be expensive and that “costs for digitization continue even after a project’s conclusion,” since maintenance is a perpetual requirement long into the future (para. 8). With institutions like UNIBEN or other art departments in emerging countries, these perpetual fees and high human labor costs can be a hindrance to produce high-quality renditions in a digital format. Socially, educational institutions may lose out on being able to accurately illustrate art online as it appears in reality. Malraux’s infers that reproduction does not always do justice to art objects, “systematically falsifying the scale of objects” (1951, p. 24).  Although the function of a museum will always be social, institutions must carefully consider how legitimate reproducing art online really can be. This applies to small-scaled and financially limited art institutions as well as highly-regarded and powerful institutions.

Is There a Solution For Emerging Countries to Participate in the Artworld?

Logo from Goethe Institut’s Twitter

Thus far, we have seen that art-related departments in universities have a place in local indigenous communities for participation in the art world. But because of political, economic and financial constraints, large-scale participation through digital platforms can be limited. Even though there are no cure-all solutions, the best bet is for small-scaled art departments in universities to bridge stronger ties with already-existing institutions that participate in the artworld. There are plenty of models in addition to the Google Art Project. One example is the Goethe-Institut Nigeria, located in Lagos, Nigeria.

Comparable to a university or museum, this institute partakes in exhibitions, workshops, gallery events, and lectures. It also holds seminars for Nigerian teachers interested in learning the German language, and has a library which “serves as a resource centre for getting information on the cultural, social and political life in Germany” (“About Us,” 2013). The Goethe Institut in Nigeria has a Twitter and Facebook page, where additional means of transmitting culture is exhibited. Currently, the institute works with universities such as the University of Lagos, which makes the idea of building a stronger network between university’s art departments and this institute realistic.

Cultural activities

Universities such as UNIBEN and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka can gradually work to digitalize their cultural artefacts with help from the Goethe Institut. As Jones suggests, having a test-run or pilot program can be the best way to anticipate true needs of a program. He suggests that any digitization projects should be “manageable” (start with a few collections instead of trying to do an entire art gallery) and maintain consistency – objects like photographs and documents should all be the same digital size or file format (Jones, 2001). Universities could make part of their curriculum a prerequisite to attend the Goethe Institut’s workshops or seminars, as this serves as a way to bridge ties between two major cultures instead of just one.

Conclusion: What is the Significance of This Project?

By looking at how specific academic institutions participate in the artworld, the goal of this multimedia paper was to offer a glimpse into how humans construct meaning that stems from analog and digital cultural artefacts. Art galleries and art museums in universities are not exempt from contemplating how they wish to preserve their cultural memory in the future. The methodological approach throughout this paper used interdisciplinary models to explore mediation, transmission, and new media platforms’ social and technical influence. Looking deeper at the behind-the-scenes media activity of university’s art galleries offers new insight into the efforts required to preserve cultural memory. Platforms like the Google Art Project should not be a replacement, but a complement for already-existing means of transmission. Furthermore, universities should advocate for students to gain new skills in art programs such as taking courses that teaches methods of digital culture and digital archiving or preservation of cultural goods online. This can be done in the classroom and through external cultural institutions such as the Goethe Institut. The first step in realizing that the future must always be accounted for is that the dynamic between human and machine-enabled cultural work is here to stay.


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Zed, E. (2013, May 2). Email interview.



Interview with Mr. Eye Zed, graduate from UNIBEN Fine and Applied Arts Program

May 2013

-What type of art do you specialize in?

I specialize in painting and appear to favour oil painting with regard to preferred medium

-What challenges do artists in emerging countries such as Nigeria face when sharing and displaying their art?

A particular challenge appears to be a lack of adequate or appropriate forum whereby artist can meet, interact & form relationships with industry people i.e. curators & galleries to promote & distribute their work. Artist still have to deal directly with the (often rare) buying client most of the time and this doesn’t allow fair negotiation particularly for the artist who has to make ends meet. 

-How important is it for artists to be skilled in digital media and/or computer graphics?

Today the artist in Nigeria has to have relative skills in digital media because traditional fine art appear to have a niche & fast shrinking demand compared to applied arts such as graphic art and photography. In fact majority of graduate artist in Nigeria (no matter the specialization) are absorbed into one of the several advertising agencies in the country

-Did your courses utilize computer-based learning? If so, to what extent?

No, my course did not require utilization of the computer because I specialized in painting. However out of interest I have since garnered digital media skills from all the available tutorials online 

-What is your knowledge of the Google Art Project? [www.googleartproject.com]

Didn’t know about that at all to be honest. Will look it up.

-Does the university digitize collections online? (This can mean taking photographs, videos and uploading them on the Internet)

Not sure the university I attended (University of Benin) had that sort of practice/documentation in place at the time, perhaps they do now. Rhodes University (where I studied my MFA) did have digital documentation as standard practice.

-How does UNIBEN school preserve students’ artwork? What challenges does the department face such as climate, money funding.

Honestly, I’m uncertain about the challenges Uniben faces with regard to storage and maintenance of their collection but I believe some of the likely factors you mentioned above are likely challenges they may be facing today.

-What do students typically do after completion of their degree? Do they come to the U.S., travel or embark on other pursuits?

I’d rather not generalize on what would only be my opinion with regard to this question but based upon some of the challenges pointed out earlier, it wouldn’t surprise me if statistics point towards artists abandoning this field or interest altogether in pursuit of other professions that provide means for themselves & their families.