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 https://blog.generalmills.com/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.