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.

Welcome to the James Ford Bell Library Map Portal

Maps are alluring. They draw us into worlds sometimes familiar, sometimes unknown, but always fascinating. Maps can be understood and analyzed as visual objects, as texts to be read, and as physical artifacts of a particular culture--or all of these things at once. The James Ford Bell Library has a small but important collection of about 300 unbound maps;  the maps found within and among the pages of its books, however, total more than 22,460. We are most grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for a grant funding our "Revealing Maps" project,  which enabled us to find, describe, and digitize these maps.  This page serves as a portal to this diverse cartographic collection. 




Access to Digital Copies of the Maps in the Collection

More than 6,000 of our maps have been uploaded to the University Librarie's digital repository, UMedia.  Here you may browse the collections to find the James Ford Bell Library materials and then select Historical Maps.  To make the maps easier to find for the majority of viewers we titled most of them with the century in which they were created followed by the general location depicted.  For example:  16th Century, France.   Researchers with more specialized knowledge or particular needs may search for the maps by title or cartographer, as well as date, geographic location, cartographer, and language.  We will regularly add digital copies of our maps to this repository until all of the more than 22,000 maps are available digitally.  Digitization and access to the maps in our books was made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Access to Maps through the University Libraries' Online Catalog

Our collection of atlases and unbound maps can be discovered through a search of the Libraries' online catalog.  First, select Advanced Search (use the down arrow next to the word Go to reveal this option); in the next window choose Libraries Catalog.  A selection box titled Search Scope will appear;  use the down arrow to scroll through the list of collections and choose James Ford Bell Library. This will restrict your search to materials in the Bell Library's collection; it also may provide you with links to other copies available from other sources.


Online Exhibits that include Our Maps

In the University Libraries' Gallery are a variety of collection exhibits, including some from the James Ford Bell Library.  Many of our online exhibits are about or include maps.  Below is a current list of exhibits that include maps.  Select the title of the exhibit to be taken to it.  When you are finished looking at the first exihibit you chose, you may browse the gallery for additional exhibits.  Use the link to the James Ford Bell Library in the top right of the screen to come back to our web site.


Additional Resources for the History of Cartography

Imago Mundi. The International Journal for the History of Cartography

Map History/History of Cartography, a web site maintained by Tony Campbell, former map librarian at the British Library

The Portolan. The Journal of the Washington Map Society

Terrae Incognitae. The Journal of the Society for the History of Discoveries