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.


Access to the James Ford Bell Library is open to all. These are non-circulating materials, which must be used only in the reading room. Permission to examine materials normally will be granted to any qualified researcher upon completion of the registration form and agreement to abide by the rules governing use.

More than 90% of the Bell Collection can be found in University of Minnesota Libraries' online catalog. To search the Bell Library specifically, it is best to do an Advanced Search. Select "Catalog Only" and then under "Search Scope," select James Ford Bell Library to limit your search to mostly our collection.

Researcher Registration Form

You will be asked to register as a researcher each year you want to use the collection.

NOTE: You will be asked to produce current and valid photo identification (U of M ID, driver's license, passport, etc.); anyone failing to produce a legitimate photo ID will be denied access to collection materials.  Minor children without ID must be accompanied by an adult with appropriate identification or be part of a History Day visit.  Contact the curator if questions.

Instructions & Conditions for Use

The following instructions are designed to enhance the security of the collection and to ensure its proper care. Please review them carefully before using the collections, and do not hesitate to ask the staff for assistance. Bell Library staff reserve the right to limit or prohibit access to any materials if potential for misuse is evident.

  • Complete and sign the Researcher Registration Form the first time you visit, and sign the daily register each time you visit. Be prepared to show a valid photo identification (U of M ID, driver's license, passport, or other photo ID issued by a state or federal government agency) to a staff member when you submit the registration form.
  • Lockers are available for coats, backpacks, briefcases, purses, and other bags; these items are not permitted in the reading room.
  • No food or beverages of any kind are allowed in the reading room.
  • Use only pencils in the reading room; no ink of any kind is allowed. Materials must not be written on, leaned upon, traced, fastened together, folded or otherwise altered or mutilated in any way. Retain the order of file folders or boxes of manuscript and art collections. We welcome reports of items that appear to have been misfiled or dated incorrectly. If you encounter problems with the physical condition or arrangement of materials, bring them to the attention of a staff person.
  • Personal devices may be used.  The reading room does have wireless access.
  • Please be respectful of other researchers and limit your conversation to that necessary to accomplish your research.
  • Copying and other forms of duplication are possible, depending on the condition of the particular item. Visit our Services page for more information.
  • You may request that an item be placed on hold if you intend to use it again within the week. Forms are available for this purpose in the reading room; please complete one form for each item to be placed on hold, and inform the staff of when you expect to return and the length of time you would like the item held. As a general rule, we will not hold items longer than 2 weeks, but special arrangements can be made.
  • Notify a staff member when you have finished using an item.  Removal of any item from the reading room without the consent of the Bell curator or assistant curator will be considered theft and punishable to the full extent of the law.