Archives and Special Collections are open by appointment only, limited to UMN affiliates. Appointments must be made one week in advance of your visit. Contact or the curator of the collecting area you wish to use for assistance. We continue to provide scans of requested research materials when possible, especially for our non-campus clientele.

For K-12 Instructors

Scheduling Class Visits:

Contact the curator at or 612-624-6895.

We welcome students of all ages to the Bell Library. It also is possible to schedule a Show & Tell session at your school.


Class Visits: We encourage class visits, but due to space limitations and the nature of the material, visitors must be limited to groups of 20. However, it is possible to divide larger groups and schedule two alternating presentations, or a presentation and an exhibit tour, depending on the number of adults available for supervision and the number of staff members available. Visits of younger students, 3rd-4th grade, are best scheduled in conjunction with an exhibition. Visit content can be tailored to a subject your class is studying or can be general; we'll work with you to create the learning experience that best suits your students. Check our exhibit schedule.


Show & Tell Visit to Your School: A Show & Tell visit to your school by the Bell Library curator would introduce students to maps and rare books through the use of facsimiles and reproductions. Using an online connection, the curator also can instruct students in searching the Bell Web site for images and other information. A power point presentation of particular items in the collection also is a possibility. We'll work with you to tailor the presentation to your needs.


For K-12 Instructors & Students

Color illustration of Barbary Coast pirate

History Day

A special topical prize is offered by the Associates of the James Ford Bell Library for History Day projects that reflect the Library's focus--the history and impact of European expansion and cross-cultural interaction before ca. 1800--and tie it to the History Day theme. [ Learn More ]



Digital Resources

Online Exhibits and Instructional Materials

We have created a number of online exhibitions, focused on our collection materials; for many of them we have provided information for K-12 applicability or other relevant information. All of the maps can be considered primary sources for History Day projects, in addition to any lengthy text passages quoted from the original, such as passages from Captain Cook's journals or the complete translation of "From Lisbon to Calicut".


The Correct Way to Sail from Lisbon to Calicut
Captain Cook's Voyages of Discovery
Celebrating Venice: On Land and Sea
"A Long, Troublesome, Dangerous Passage" from England to India
Trade and Commerce in 17th-Century Europe: Proclamations

Historical Maps & Mapmakers

Each of the exhibits listed below focuses on different maps in the Bell Library collection. Many of these exhibits were part of our earlier "Maps & Mapmakers" program and are still being updated.


Early Atlases & How They Shaped the World: Examples from the Bell Library
Martin Waldseemüller and the Map that Named "America"
Nagasaki Harbor, 1741: Navigating the Many Dimensions of a Map
Olaus Magnus' 16th-Century Map of Scandinavia
Ptolemy's World
Portolan Charts

Other Primary Sources

We have begun a strategic digitization program that will make some complete texts and other resources available online through the U of M Libraries' digital repository UMedia Archive. Additionally, through funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, we have scanned all of the maps in our books and they are being added to UMedia Archive on a regular basis. We expect all of them to be available by the fall of 2016. UMedia Archive: James Ford Bell Library Collections

Note: These link to materials in UMedia will take you out of the Bell site with no special link to get you back; please use your browser's back button to return to the Bell Library web site.