Get to Know: Dr. Tasha Dobbin-Bennett

Hello everyone!! I hope that you're having an amazing week! It's another week in Oxford and I want to introduce another vital part of this community!! Dr. Tasha Dobbin-Bennett joined the faculty last year and she's rose quickly among the ranks of the favorite professors on campus (at least for me)! I'm very excited to share my little interview with her with you all, so I hope you enjoy! 

Her Campus: Can you introduce yourself a bit?

Dr. Tasha Dobbin-Bennett: Hi, I’m Dr. Tasha Dobbin-Bennett and I am an Assistant Professor of Art History and Studio Art here at Oxford College. I’m originally from New Zealand, but I came to America for Graduate School and I stayed on after I graduated.

HC: How did you find yourself coming to Oxford College?

DB: I was working at a Rare Books and Manuscripts Library as a Papyrologist when this position was advertised.  As part of my job as a Papyrologist, I looked after the collection of ancient papyri, where I catalogued, inventoried, and photographed them.  In addition, I also taught classes and workshops on visual representations in the ancient world and I worked in the conservation laboratory. When the Oxford College position was advertised, I did my research and I knew that this was the place for me.  I could teach not only the historical component of art, but also the technical aspects that I loved.  When I came to campus for my interview, I knew right away that I wanted the job.  Luckily for me, I got the job and I get to do what I love on a day-to-day basis.

HC: What is the one thing you enjoy most about Egyptology and conservation?

DB: For Egyptology, I love the challenge of deciphering the language.  For conservation, it all about seeing the transformation of a piece.  Sometimes, the transformation is only visible to me, or under the microscope, but I know that I have made that piece more stable, or more visible, or more accessible for the researcher.

HC: What is the biggest challenge with teaching art history and papermaking?

DB: Perhaps the biggest challenge that I face is the same one that the field of Humanities is facing in general: why does it matter?  I understand the pressures that my students feel when they are choosing classes.  Sometimes there are external pressures that mean my students have to justify why they are taking an art history course over another science class, for example. And, I always answer that studying art creates a foundation for understanding the complexities of the human experience.  You learn to critically observe, to research, to contextualize history and religion and politics. To be good art historians, we have to be able to be very well rounded with diverse backgrounds so that we can contextualize the artist’s intention (politics, religion, economics, social commentary, psychology), audience reception (all those elements plus shifts in time, geography, and cultures as the audiences change), composition and technical structure (chemistry, engineering, architecture), style (painting, drawing, sculpture, bookbinding, printing, etching etc).

HC: Do you have 1 memorable experience that you can link back to your time in the art field?

DB: The first solo conservation treatment I performed.  It took hours and hours of training, a very steady hand, and a great deal of knowledge about absorbency thresholds for papyrus fibers. I simultaneously proud and nervous!

HC: Any exciting plans coming up in regards to classes?

DB: I am super excited about the upcoming Egyptian art class this coming spring semester.  I love teaching ancient Egyptian art and this will be my first semester long course on the topic here at Oxford.  I am also continuing to develop my paper-making course with new techniques, and more equipment!  One project that is so exciting is the ongoing Virtual Reality program spearheaded by the Oxford Technology Team.  Stay tuned!

HC: Okay, ready for a quick fire round? 

HC: Flying vs. Teleportation?

DB: Teleportation!

HC: Star Wars Vs. Star Trek?

Star Trek

HC: Coke or Pepsi?

Neither, I prefer Ginger Ale.

HC: Vermeer vs. King Akhenaten

Argh, don’t make me choose.