Friday, November 26, 2021

7 Questions with Natasha Bruns, General Mills Corporate Archivist


     Did you know that many companies employ historians and/or archivists to preserves the company's history ? Learn about it here.

         Natasha Bruns is the Corporate Archivist at General Mills, Inc and on the board for the Associates of the James Ford Bell Library. She obtained her BA in History with a minor in Humanistic Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and Master of Library and Information Science from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. Previously she has worked on projects for the Children’s Literature Research Collection at the University of Minnesota, Archives and Area Research Center at UW-Green Bay, and the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay, WI. For more about General Mills and its history, go to

Natasha Bruns

  1. How and when did you get hooked on history?

The library was my favorite place to visit when I was in elementary and middle school and I loved reading, but it was surprisingly video games and movies that got me hooked on history. Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones being major influences on my interest in the histories of early civilizations. Being able to see historical places or events brought to life inspired me to learn and understand more about history.

  1. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

While I was always a big fan of history, it didn’t really have a big impact on my life until college. The depth of knowledge of my professors and their passion for being able to share it really drew me to wanting to learn about history and be able to share that same level of passion with others. I knew that I was interested in being able to share information with a variety of people and wanted to look for opportunities outside of teaching in a classroom which led me to study museums and archives.

  1. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

I am very fortunate to interact with history every day! In an archive context is everything, not only the context of what was happening at time within General Mills, its subsidiaries, or its predecessors, but also what was happening outside of the company. American and global history provides important context for understanding why innovation happened and what impact it had on consumers.

General Mills Archives Cookbook Collection

4.          Why is studying/knowing history important?

Our daily life and the actions we take are history. By understanding moments and glimpses of the past we can use that information to make informed decisions. Studying failures and unsuccessful moments can provide valuable insight and offer provide inspiration for how to improve. 

5.          What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

20th century history is one of my favorite periods to learn about because there are many facets that deeply impact current events. Specifically, the Space Race and the Cold War are very fascinating to me because of the efforts of both the United States and Russia expanding science and technology in remarkable ways.


Archives Preservation Exhibit

6.         A lot of people probably don’t realize that corporations often employ archivists or historians to preserve the company’s history.  What exactly is your job as General Mills Corporate Archivist and what kinds of things does the archive contain?

As the General Mills Corporate Archivist, it is my responsibility to maintain and manage the collection to ensure it is accessible and preserved for the benefit of General Mills and its employees. This includes making sure historically significant materials are available for use. Materials are used to share the stories of the company with brand teams and for marketing purposes. Some of my favorite aspects of this role include giving history tours, providing artifacts for events, and maintaining historical displays at the company headquarters.

The General Mills Corporate Archives contains records and artifacts dating back to the mid-1800s and includes product packaging, in-box promotions, mail-in premiums, advertisements, photographs, and materials related to the historical and ongoing tasks of General Mills, its subsidiaries, and its predecessors.

7.      Is your archive open to the public? Who uses the archive and for what purposes?

We are not open to the public, but we are able to answer some research questions we receive from consumers on a case-by-case basis. Our primary audience are employees of General Mills, who use the Archives to find product and brand history, locate historic photos or images, or research in the impact of General Mills.
Celebrating Trix Rabbit's 60th birthday in 2019

Friday, November 19, 2021

7 Questions with Ros Evans, History Video Gamer and Creator of the Mission Past YouTube Channel


Ros Evans created the Mission Past YouTube channel to explain, explore and celebrate history in video games. He has an academic background in archaeology and has been making independent short videos about history for over a decade. His film about the English Civil War won the award for best narrative at The Archaeology Channel International Film Festival in 2012 and in 2015 he co-founded the local history podcast in the UK called A Good Walk Spoiled. Mission Past takes his love of history and morphs it with his passion and experience for video games to explore how history pops up in the multi-billion dollar gaming industry. The channel can be found at

1.How and when did you get hooked on history?

When I was a kid in the late '90s there were two big influences that really got me interested. One was a British TV series called Time Team where a group of archaeologists and historians had three days to evaluate a historical site. The second was the video game Age of Empires, released on PC in 1997. It allowed you to play as one of a number of ancient civilisations. Both of those vividly brought history to life through computer imagery. I remember thinking “wow people used to live like this? I have to find out more!”

2.What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

Studying history gives you a drive to ask how things came to be the way they are. In the construction of objects, places, technologies, cultures and so on. I think that this curiosity to get back to the essentials of things is a way of thinking that stays with you once you learn it and you can apply it to practically anything.

3.How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

I have a Masters in Archaeology for Screen Media and for the last six years I've been a freelance videographer. I occasionally get the opportunity to work on historical projects – recently I've been involved with an interactive project exploring the history of Malmesbury (a small town in the south of England) and it's been a pleasure to highlight the unseen layers of history that are everywhere in the modern world. I also had the opportunity to do some work experience on Time Team shortly before it was discontinued which was great.

4.Why is studying/knowing history important?

History is the key to unlocking who we are. But to be slightly provocative, very often TV shows and the like blandly tell us that our ancestors were just like us, which is of course true to some extent. But they also perceived and thought about the world in a radically different way to us. There is a great positive message from studying history and thinking about how much has changed in the way people have perceived and constructed society. It underscores humanity's incredible ability to change.

5.What is your favourite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

My favourite historical period is the English Civil War of the 1640s because the country was in flux. Not only was there a devastating civil war going on but also fundamental questions were being asked which were influential for hundreds of years in Europe and further abroad. It culminated in the execution of King Charles I, who was after all apparently placed there by god himself. I must say that I also love prehistory (although it doesn't technically qualify for this question!) because every little scrap you find out illuminates part of our past that seems so distant and foreign to us today. I've been lucky enough to help excavate sites from both of these periods too which gives you an instant and very direct link to the history.

6.How did Mission Past get started?

For over a decade I've tried to create accessible and entertaining videos about history because I want to get other people interested in the past just as I did when I was younger. The idea to discuss video games came to me about two years ago initially because I wanted a visual aid for the history I was talking about but then I realised that video games are hugely understudied compared to the cultural footprint they have (the industry is now bigger than the movie and music industries combined). And after all it was a video game that really had an impact on me to take up studying history. I'm also pretty well qualified having spent longer than I'd like to admit playing video games since the late '90s.

7.How difficult is it to strike the right balance of history and enjoyability in a game? What are the hallmarks of a great historical game?

I wrote an essay on this topic when I was studying my Masters, it's fascinating. Video games have to be entertaining and engaging and (perhaps unfortunately) the history has to come second to this. That's not to say that games don't have a duty to represent the history in good faith, they do, but because of the nature of the medium it has to be streamlined. The balance between enjoyability and historical veracity is very difficult and it's practically impossible to satisfy both requirements.

I have always seen the point of good historical games as giving the player encouragement to go and find out more about the history they feature, whether that's inside or outside of the game. For that to happen they need to immerse the player in the past. That's exactly how I first became interested in history. Games are a relatively young medium and they are getting better and better at including information for those that are interested, for example by featuring an interactive historical game mode or encyclopedia.

Friday, November 12, 2021

7 Questions with Clare Mulley, Author


Clare Mulley is an award-winning author and broadcaster. Her first book, The Woman Who Saved the Children, won the Daily Mail Biographers’ Club Prize, and The Spy Who Loved led to Clare being decorated with Poland’s national honour, the Bene Merito. Clare’s third book, The Women Who Flew for Hitler, tells the extraordinary story of two women at the heart of Nazi Germany, whose choices put them on opposite sides of history, and was long-listed for the Historic Writers Association Non-Fiction Crown. Clare reviews non-fiction for the Spectator and Telegraph. Learn more at

1. How and when did you get hooked on history?

Since I saw the worn stone steps outside a farmhouse as a child, and learnt that this was caused by the women and men, children and probably animals, walking through the same doorway for centuries. That threshold still has its grip on me. 

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

My first book was a biography of Eglantyne Jebb, the remarkable founder of Save the Children and champion of children's human rights, who was not fond of individual children yet permanently changed the way the world both regards and treats the younger generations. I was working for Save the Children as a fundraiser when I came across her inspiring story, heard about her public arrest, her passion and compassion. The book, called The Woman Who Saved the Children, later won the Daily Mail Biographers Club prize, and turned me into an author. All royalties from that book go to Save the Children, but I now make my living from writing… and my eldest daughter is called Eglantyne after this great woman - although only as her middle name! So even just this particular history alone has had a huge impact on my life!

3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

I am not exactly sure what qualifies someone to be a historian. When I started researching my book on Eglantyne Jebb I took a history Masters degree, writing almost every essay on my subject! Although I have not gone on to get a Doctorate, I have now published three non-fiction history books. After The Woman Who Saved the Children, came my biography of Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville, The Spy Who Loved. Granville was the first woman to serve Britain as a special agent in the Second World War. She worked in three different theatres of the conflict, escaping arrest in Nazi-occupied Poland before being parachuted behind enemy lines in France, were she secured the defection of an entire German garrison and saved the lives of several of her male colleagues among other achievements. Awarded the OBE, George Medal and French Croix de Guerre, she was reportedly also Churchill’s ‘favourite spy’. Researching this book dominated my life for two years, and Granville has never left me - I unveiled an English Heritage Blue Plaque for her last year. 

Deciding to take a different perspective on the war, my last book, The Women Who Flew for Hitler, looked at the intertwined lives of the only to women to serve the Third Reich as test pilots, one of whom was a fanatical Nazi, while the other secretly had Jewish ancestry and became involved in the most famous attempt on Hitler's life. I am now working on my next book - but this is still under wraps. Needless to say, history has not only been core to my professional life for the last decade or more, it also seeps into much of the rest of my life too, be it the stories I share with my daughters, the places I choose to holiday, and even, sometimes, the narratives of my dreams! 

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

The obvious answer to this is the history of women engaging with and responding to the First and Second World Wars. However, in truth I am fascinated by all recorded history, from handprints on cave walls onwards. I love to learn from experts in other periods and areas, and am often inspired by both the evident similarities and differences that distinguish human history across time and place.

6. Your work, books, articles, and reviews, mostly revolves around women during World War II, extraordinary women who are pretty much left out of general history. What attracts you to their stories and how much more difficult is it to research their stories?

There is still a rich seam of untold women’s stories across history, including what is sometimes called 'military history'. The First and Second World Wars both to some extent subverted usual gender norms, enabling British women not only to serve on the Home Front but also to take roles at the frontline or even behind enemy lines. The expediency of war is a great leveller, and it is always fascinating looking at such moments of great social change. For Polish women, the Home Front quickly was the frontline, and many served within their military as pilots, drivers and soldiers. Soviet women were also recruited into frontline service as fighter and bomber pilots, tank drivers, snipers and machine gunners. Yet stories such as these have received relatively little attention, or are still told through a glamourising lens: the women discussed in terms of their beauty and courage, rather than their achievements. It has been a privilege, as well as a great adventure, to research and write some of this history from a fresh perspective. This is not just 'women’s history', it is shared history, and sheds light not only on female endeavour but on diversity in terms of nationality, race, faith, age and physical ability, and also on the 'male experience' of war! 

Regarding researching women’s stories, there tends to be less material on the women who served in the archives, even proportionally, although there is now an increasing will to capture and retain more of this. Conversely however, I have sometimes found more material on the women kept with families, such as personal diaries, letters and other documents. I once found a document on a servicewoman marked ‘file as domestic’, which is pretty telling in itself! 

7. You also review books for numerous publications. From your point of view as a reviewer, what makes for a successful history book?

I enjoy reviewing, and this year I am also Chair of the judges for the Historical Writers Association Non-Fiction Crown prize, which has been like being part of the best - and most intense - book club ever. Different book prizes may look for different qualities, such as how accessible a book is, or how deep the research or fresh the perspective. I am interested in all these things, as well as the the basics such as fine, fluent writing, but I think it is also important to judge each book on its own terms. At the end of the day, what is really needed is multiple perspectives on the various subjects. I am always suspicious of any book that claims to be the definitive authority on any subject!  

Friday, November 5, 2021

7 Questions with the Tattooed Historian, John Heckman


John Heckman became known to online audiences as The Tattooed Historian in 2015. Since then he has built a digital history network that has a large reach and crosses many subjects within the historical narrative. John earned his graduate degree in 2013 and has worked hard to create a positive legacy in the field of history. When he's not doing history online, you can usually find him drinking a cup of coffee and reading a good book. You can find out more at all of his sites through this link:

1)  How did you get hooked on history?

 I became hooked on history around the age of 8 years old. I had a series of emotionally traumatic events in my life from the age of 5 to 8 and I really needed an escape. I found that thing I needed within the pages of history. On top of this, I grew up less than 25 miles from the Gettysburg Battlefield so I would beg my grandparents to take me over there as often as possible to see the sites and try to understand how we envision the past. I found out about historical re-enacting around the age of 12 and I participated in over 500 events throughout the next 25 years or so. 

2) What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

My personal life has been impacted by history in so many ways. I have gained many friends due to my love of history and in that sense, I have learned how others perceive the historical narrative. It's been a great learning experience to understand things from a psychological/sociological standpoint. History also allowed me to find people in the past who had been through similar situations as myself. Through reading about their personal hurdles, I learned how to navigate some particularly difficult times in my life. 

3) How does history play  a part of your professional life/career?

Professionally, the past has allowed me to build my own digital brand of history for online audiences (The Tattooed Historian). This started out six years ago as a way to find my next job, almost an edgier way of creating a LinkedIn profile. But then it turned into a full-time gig in 2018 and has well over 10,000 followers from many parts of the world. Through this, I have had the chance to meet some amazing historians, students, and others who enjoy talking about history; plugging their books and articles, giving tours, or showcasing exhibits at museums. It has been the greatest networking opportunity for me and is my legacy project. I want to leave something behind that showcases who I am authentically as a historian and citizen. 

4) Why is studying/knowing history important?

Studying the past is so important because, frankly, we all have one. We are all biographies waiting to be written. If we do not realize who we are, the good and the bad, then we are not growing as a people. Think of it this way: we all have our flaws. Perhaps we want to lose weight or gain muscle. To do that, we have to work out, eat better, etc. It's okay to have the desire to want to be better than we were. We must embrace the primary sources, focus on their message in a lateral sense (not linear), and realize that we can create positive changes from understanding the lessons of the past. To run from the past is one way to negatively impact our future. 

5) What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

I love to learn about a variety of things. You can find me reading about the history of death and burials, food, body modification, disasters, and conflict. I enjoy learning about all things history as long as it is backed up by primary resources and peer-reviewed analysis. I'm not into reading the "What Ifs" of history though. What actually happened is interesting in itself! 

6) How did you become the Tattooed Historian?

I became "The Tattooed Historian" by embracing who I am, instead of wishing to fit into what was traditionally being tossed around as "what a historian looks like." I was tattooed before I earned any of my degrees in history so this wasn't a way for me to bring some sort of fake shock value to my brand. I had actually been denied a job in the field due to having tattoos below my elbows. I set out to prove that you can be tattooed and good at what you do; my tattoos are not my resume. I've also created a very welcoming place for all of those who love history no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. I've been judged based on my tattoos and I will not allow others to be judged based on who they are; ignorance and hate have no home on my pages and is banned immediately. What you see is what you get with me. I'm the same in person as I am on a livestream and I think that authenticity has helped my brand grow exponentially.

7)  What can followers of the Tattooed Historian expect from your social media?

The content on The Tattooed Historian pages is a wide variety of things. I do a lot of livestream events including many with authors and others who wish to plug their work. I play historically-based games on Twitch and YouTube from time to time. We have times where I just chat with followers to get their input and feedback about things in the history field. The Tattooed Historian Show is my podcast which just started up again for another season and can include audio from previous livestreams as well as newer content. And the historical subjects are all over the place from World War I to Charlie Brown to George Washington's cabinet when he was president. There's something for everyone!