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.

The James Ford Bell Library was created "to establish an historical background and knowledge of this great economic force [trade] and the part it has played and still plays in the development of the present-day world."
                                                          —James Ford Bell, 1954

Our Mission

The James Ford Bell Library advances understanding of our global heritage by documenting the history and impact of trade and cultural exchange prior to ca. 1800 CE. Its premier collection of rare books, maps, and manuscripts, and its innovative programs support scholarship and education at all levels, enriching our community by helping to make the world we live in more meaningful.

James Ford Bell

James Ford Bell, a leading figure in the American flour milling industry and founder of General Mills, Inc., was born in Philadelphia, PA, in 1879. He moved to Minneapolis, MN as a boy of nine, when his father, James Stroud Bell, became general manager of the Washburn Crosby Company. James Ford Bell received a BS in Chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1901. Following his graduation, he joined the Washburn Crosby Company, where he demonstrated outstanding gifts in research and management; his responsibilities in the company grew rapidly. [ Learn More ]


"Who can think of a more human-centered thing than to collect such books and to encourage such study.” Jack Parker, Minneapolis Star, May 7, 1959

John (Jack) Parker left an indelible stamp on the Bell Library during his 35 years as curator. [ Learn More ]


Bell roomBell room

The Bell Room reflects a late 18th-century library in a European gentleman’s country home, the sort of setting in which the books in the Bell collection might initially have been read. Originally called the "Treasure Room," the Bell Room served as the Library's first reading room, when it was housed in Walter Library on the University's east bank campus. The Bell Library moved to its current location in Wilson Library in the late 1960s and the Bell Room came with it. Plans are afoot to move the Bell Room to a new home in Elmer L. Andersen Library within the next few years. [ Learn More ]