Professor of History

Director of Archives, The History Center: Archives of Bethel University and Converge

Courses Taught
Educational Background

B.A., Bethel University
M.A. and PhD, University of Minnesota

Get to Know Prof. Magnuson

What’s your favorite primary or secondary source to teach in a course at Bethel?

My students know that one of my favorite primary sources to work with in any class is the U.S. Decennial Census of Population.  The decennial census has been capturing the American people since 1790 and its data reveal a fascinating picture of the American experience across time. If this were the only primary source available to students of American history, we would learn much about race, immigration, mortality, fertility, education, labor, neighborhoods, institutions, family history, cities, and more. The current prominent discussion surrounding the next decennial census — scheduled for April 1, 2020 — points to the relevance of this primary source in modern America.

What’s your favorite library or archive to work in?

My favorite archive in which to conduct research is the National Archives and Records Administration, located in Washington, D.C.  The historic building and reading room have the perfect ambiance for research.  It is exciting to submit a request for primary source materials and to have a staff person wheel out a cart with the treasure.

Tell us about your “cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1). Who are some Christians whose stories inspire, convict, or challenge you?

My cloud of witnesses are the members of the Friends of the History Center Steering Committee. This energetic group of people have poured out their careers and retirement to Bethel University and Converge. Former professors, staff and conference pastors make up the committee, and they tirelessly work to promote and preserve the histories of Bethel and Converge. They write books on the history of the university and conference, publish a biannual newsletter, host fundraising and education events, and support the broader work of the History Center. May we all be so fortunate to meaningfully and productively engage the histories that inspire us well beyond the parameters of “school” or “employment.”

Outside of the Bible and your research/teaching fields… what’s the best book you’ve read recently? What did you appreciate most about it?

The Old, Weird America by Greil Marcus.  I appreciated being challenged to think differently about the cultural and political context of American folk music.

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