Bonnie Mak

Photo of Bonnie Mak

Associate Professor

PhD, Medieval Studies, University of Notre Dame

230 LIS
(217) 244-0154
bmak [at]

Office Hours

By appointment

Research Focus

Manuscript, print, and digital cultures; the production and circulation of knowledge; manuscript studies; book history; history of science; medieval and early modern collecting; history of archives and libraries.

Other Professional Appointments

Associate Professor, Medieval Studies
Senior Fellow, Center for Humanities and Information, The Pennsylvania State University


Bonnie Mak is an associate professor at the University of Illinois, jointly appointed in the School of Information Sciences and the Program in Medieval Studies. She teaches courses in the history and future of the book, and offers doctoral seminars on authenticity, reading practices, and knowledge production. Her first book, How the Page Matters (2011), examines the interface of the page as it is developed across time, geographies, and technologies. A second book-length project, Confessions of a 21st-Century Memsahib, explores the historical circumstances that shape the digital materials with which scholarship is increasingly conducted, and thereby examines the notions of data and information in the humanities.

Mak was named Senior Fellow of the Center for Humanities and Information at the Pennsylvania State University in 2015, and Faculty Fellow of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities in 2012. She has been the recipient of grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Newberry Consortium for Renaissance Studies, and the Huntington Library. Before joining the University of Illinois, Mak was Post-Doctoral Fellow of the InterPARES Project on the preservation of digital records at the University of British Columbia, and SSHRC Post-Doctoral Fellow of the Faculty of Information and the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto.


Libraries Info and Society (IS502B)
History and Foundations of LIS (IS587A)

Research Projects

Unpacking the Librarian's Cabinet of Curiosity

For over two millennia, librarians have played a critical role in the production and transmission of knowledge. They have helped to collect, catalogue, and curate a vast range of materials that constitute much of our cultural heritagefrom epic poetry on papyrus scrolls to PDFs of scholarly articles. This project interrogates these practices by building a librarian's cabinet of curiosity, and populating it with explicit examples of the mundane activities...

Information's Allure

One of the enduring attractions of books is their ability to stand witness to their own presence through time and space. A history of social interaction is marked on the pages of a book; a folded corner, a stain from a careless reader's cup of coffee, and a thoughtful comment in the margin accrue and transmit something of where the book has been, with whom, and under what circumstances.

Donna Haraway is our "Friend": Reconfiguring Friendship Bracelets and Bibliography

This project uses the friendship bracelet as a way to "re-weave" the academic canon. Friendship bracelets are handmade macramé bracelets of embroidery thread, intended to be worn as a sign of lasting friendship. In this collaboration with Julia Pollack (MS '12), bracelets have been woven with bibliographical references to important work of women in the field of knowledge-production.

Metadata Poems

Although standardized vocabularies and languages are often invoked as a way to ensure interoperability in the management of informational resources, these conventions prioritize particular ways of representing the world. This project situates metadata as an infrastructure of information, and examines how such descriptive practices have configured the production of knowledge for centuries—from medieval herbals to global surveillance efforts in the 21st century.

Completed Research Projects

Selected Publications, Papers, and Presentations

"Card Catalog." In Transmissions: Critical Tactics for Making and Communicating Research, edited by Kat Jungnickel. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, forthcoming. With Julia Pollack. 

"Research Box: Making Visible the Infrastructures of Knowledge." In Boxes in Action: A Field Guide, edited by Susanne Bauer, Martina Schlünder, and Maria Rentetzi. Manchester, UK: Mattering Press, in press. With Julia Pollack.

Engaging with Archives and Records: Histories & Theoriesco-edited with Fiorella Foscarini, Heather MacNeil, and Gillian Oliver. London: Facet Publishing, 2016. 

"On the Design of the Humanities." interactions 23.4 (July/August 2016): 76–79. With Julia Pollack. doi: 10.1145/2945291

"Review of Thomas A. Bredehoft, The Visible Text: Textual Production and Reproduction from Beowulf to Maus." Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 115.3 (July 2016): 398–401.

"Archaeology of a Digitization." Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 65.8 (August 2014): 1515–1526. doi: 10.1002/asi.23061

"Book Unbound: An Exploration of the Material Forms of the Codex and E-book." Book 2.0 3.2 (December 2013): 137–147. With Julia Pollack. doi: 10.1386/btwo.3.2.137_1. Reprinted in The Open Book Project, ed. Leslie Atzmon, 53–67. Eastern Michigan University Art Galleries, Ypsilanti, Mich.: 2014.

"The Performance and Practice of Research in 'A Cabinet of Curiosity: the Library’s Dead Time'." Art Documentation 32.2 (Fall 2013): 202–221. With Julia Pollack. doi: 10.1086/673513

"On the Uses of Authenticity." Archivaria 73 (Spring 2012): 1–17.

How the Page Matters. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011. Pbk in 2012.

"Constructions of Authenticity." Library Trends 56.1 (Summer 2007): 26–52. With Heather MacNeil.

Related Topics

Archives and Preservation, Cultural Informatics and Heritage, Digital Humanities, Foundations of Information, History of Information, Libraries and Librarianship, book and manuscript studies, history of the book, medieval studies