James Ford Bell Library; 15 Elmer L. Andersen Library

I earned my Ph.D. in History at the University of Minnesota with a concentration in medieval history and a sub-field in early modern world trade.  Little did I know that it would lead me to the James Ford Bell Library, the only special collection in the world that focuses on world trade and cultural exchange prior to ca. 1800 C.E.!   The James Ford Bell Library's collection of more than 40,000 rare books, maps, manuscripts and archival collections, government documents and other materials is open to everyone. 

A large part of my job as curator is helping researchers find the right materials for their projects, introducing students and others to the collection through lectures and presentations, and giving talks to community groups whose members might have an interest in the subject or who may be potential donors or researchers.  The collection ranges from 15th-century merchant correspondence to accounts of Captain James Cook's 18th-century voyages of discovery; from a 5th-century itinerary for travel from Cairo to Constantinople to the first printed books to the archives of the Swedish East India Company.   My work is closely connected to the teaching and learning mission of the University and I am a member of the graduate faculties of History, Medieval Studies, and Early Modern Studies.  I also sit on the advisory board for the Center for Medieval Studies, the executive committee for the Center for Early Modern History, and on the governing board of the Mellon-funded Consortium for the Study of the Pre-Modern World, for which I am also the director of its Digital Research Workshop.  I regularly teach the James Ford Bell Library Seminar in Comparative World History, ca. 1000 to ca. 1800: An Introduction to Archival Research to graduate students from across the university.

In a past life, I co-founded a tax and accounting firm with my husband, now run by two of our sons; was part of the advertising and marketing team for a local ammunition manufacturer; and led a real estate investment firm, following a stint in banking.  Before graduate school, my avocation was acting and I performed in many a play and musical around town as part of community theater.


MA Medieval History, University of Minnesota
Ph.D. with Distinction; Medieval History, sub field Early Modern World Trade; minors in Medieval Studies and Latin

Awards & Grants

National Endowment for the Humanities, "Revealing Maps in the James Ford Bell Library Collection"
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, "Consortium for the Study of the PreModern World"

Service to Professional Organizations

Treasurer, MAGIRT, American Library Association, 2019-
President, Society for the History of Discoveries, 2017-2019
Assistant Treasurer/Treasurer Elect, MAGIRT American Library Associate, 2018-2019
Member, Education Committee, MAGIRT, American Library Association, 2016-2018
Vice President, Society for the History of Discoveries, 2015-2017
Editorial Board Member, TERRAE iNCOGNITAE, Society for the History of Discoveries, 2014-present
Council Member and Chair of the Student Prize Committee, Society for the History of Discoveries, 2014-2015
Member, Conference Development Committee, Rare Book and Manuscript Section, ACRL/ALA, 2010-2014
Co-Chair, Local Arrangements Committee, Rare Book and Manuscripts 2013 Conference, ACRL/ALA, 2011-2013
Member, John Phillip Immroth Award Committee, Intellectual Freedom Roundtable, American Library Associate, 2011-2013
Member, Budget & Development Committee, Rare Book and Manuscript Section, ACRL/ALA 2010-2012
Treasurer, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, 2009-2013
Organizer/Seminar Leader: “The Library and Its Friends: Negotiating Change for the 21st Century. 50th Annual Preconference of the Rare Book and Manuscript Section, ACRL/ALA 2009.
Editor, TERRAE INCOGNITAE, peer-reviewed journal of the Society for the History of Discoveries, 2007-2013
Member, Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award Committee, Intellectual Freedom Roundtable, ALA 2006-08; 2008-2010; 2011-2013
Co-Chair, Student Prize Committee, Society for the History of Discoveries, 2005-2014
Member, 2007 Pre-conference Program Committee, Rare Book and Manuscript Section, ACRL/ALA 2005-07

Selected Presentations & Publications

"Historical Maps and the Transmission and Preservation of Knowledge." In Cartography and Cultural Exchange: A Retrospective in the Legacy of Mattew Ricci's World Map in Chinese, ed. Laura Hostetler and Antoni Ucerler.  Leiden: Brill, under review.

2019  Tulips, Chocolate & Silk.  Celebrating 65 Years of the James Ford Bell Library, with Natasha d'Schommer.  Published by the James Ford Bell Library

2019 “Maximizing Assets and Access through Digital Publishing: Opportunities and Implications for Special Collections,” with Ellen Engseth (50%).  In New Top Technologies Every Librarian Needs to Know: a LITA Guide Chicago: American Library Association Neal-Schuman

2018 "Expanding Trade through Exploration:  The James Ford Bell Collection."  An essay for the Adam Matthew Digital product, Age of Exploration

2017 "Reflections of 'New' Geographies:  A Brief Glimpse at Pre-Modern Cartography, Open Rivers. Rethinking Water, Place and Community, Issue 8, Fall

2015  "Opportunities for Research:  The University of Minnesota's James Ford Bell Library."  In ASPHS Newsletter vol. 6, 2015, pp. 16-18.  Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies

2015 “Matteo Ricci and the Atlantic Islands of Zuane Pizzigano.”  Annual meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries. London, UK

2015 “Female Abbatial Lordship in Action:  Examples from 11th-Century Anjou.”  International Medieval Congress, Leeds, UK

2015  “The Impact of Saying Yes:  The James Ford Bell Library as Liberal Arts Laboratory.”  56th annual conference of the Rare Book and Manuscript Section (RBMS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL).  Oakland, CA

2014  "The Origins of Global Cartography:  The Waldseemüller Globe Gores and other Maps in the James Ford Bell Library," with William D. Phillips, Jr. In Arte de Navegar|Nautical Science 1400-1800,  ed. António Costa Canas, Francisco Contente Domingues, et al, 87-98.  Universidade de Coimbra

2011 Religious Conflict and Accommodation in the Early Modern World, co-editor with William D. Phillips, Jr.  CEMH Publications, Minneapolis

2009 Conversion to Christianity from Late Antiquity to the Modern Age:  Considering the Process in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, co-editor with Calvin B. Kendall, William D. Phillips, Jr., and Oliver Nicholson

2004  Religion and the Early Modern State: Views from China, Russia and the West, co-editor with James D. Tracy.  Cambridge University Press

2002 “Ritual Before the Altar: Legal Satisfaction and Spiritual Reconciliation in Eleventh-Century Anjou.” In Medieval and Early Modern Ritual:  Formalized Behavior in Europe, China and Japan, ed. Joëlle Rollo-Koster, 57-79.  Leiden:  E. J. Brill

Marguerite Ragnow