Digital Humanities Centre Lecture: Scraps and Scrapbooking in the Time of the Database

StFX DHC Lecture 2023
Bridget Moynihan

Scraps and Scrapbooking in the Time of the Database

Date & Time: Thursday, October 26, 2023, 4-5pm
Location: Marjorie Desmond Hall (Coady 110)


Scraps and Scrapbooking in the Time of the Database

Lev Manovich has argued for the database as the “key form of cultural expression” in the computer age (“Database” 40), stating elsewhere that if “the world appears to us as an endless and unstructured collection of images, texts, and other data records, it is only appropriate that we will be moved to model it as a database” (Language 219). However, humans have faced endless and unstructured collections of records for much longer than the computer has existed and we have been moved to model it in a plethora of ways. Movable bits of information, whether circulating as clippings, scraps, extracts, or copies, have been saved and gathered in scrapbooks, albums, portfolios, miscellanies, quilts, and cabinets of curiosities, to name only a few. While databases can risk separating the form from content for the records that they collect, much scrappy ephemera derives its value (and its risk) from a merging of form with content in its methods of record collection. As this talk will demonstrate, delving into scraps from the vantage point of our database time allows a renewed examination of the historical, narrative, and aesthetic value of these scraps, while also asking what databases and their related outputs can learn from scraps. 


Manovich, Lev. “Database as Symbolic Form.” Database Aesthetics: Art in the Age of Information Overflow, edited by Victoria Vesna, vol. 20, U of Minnesota P, 2007, pp. 39–60. ---. The Language of New Media. MIT Press, 2001.

Speaker: Bridget Moynihan

Bridget Moynihan

Bridget is a postdoctoral fellow cross appointed with INKE (Implementing New Knowledge Environments, and Library and Archives Canada – Bibliothèque et Archives Canada ( She holds a PhD in English from the University of Edinburgh, where she studied archived scrapbooks, which she approached through both close critical reading and research through design digital processes. She also holds an MLIS from Western University. Bridget’s publications have appeared in journals such as Digital Humanities Quarterly, Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, and Digital Studies/Le champ numérique.