Life’s love led to this |

Life’s love led to this

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal

Walking from his office next door to the Nevada State Museum, Michael Fischer stops to talk with the four employees who cross his path.

The newly appointed director of the Nevada Division of Cultural Affairs greets them by name and shakes their hands.

Fischer admits he loves people. In fact, he lists it as one of the reasons he is confident he can be successful at his new job.

“To do my job, you have to have management experience and a love of history and art. But most importantly, you have to love people,” Fischer said. “Everyone who works in the museums and departments has a fascinating story that now I get to be a part of.”

For the 58-year-old Fischer, being the director of seven museums, the Nevada State Library and Archives, the Historic Preservation Office and the Nevada Arts Council, is a dream come true.

“It’s something that, as a researcher and someone who loved history, I thought it would be a cool job, but I never thought it would occur,” Fischer said. “I decided to try for it, and it worked out well.”

Fischer became fascinated with Nevada’s history at 11 years old when he started collecting bottles with his mom in fields and open areas across Northern Nevada. When he was in junior high school, a teacher further cemented his love of history.

“He taught it so well that you fell in love with Nevada and its history,” Fischer said.

Fischer became so immersed with several prominent characters from the past, that he is able to emulate Gov. John Sparks and Minden town founder H.F. Dangberg Jr. during Chautauqua performances.

To enhance his knowledge of what it was like to be them, Fischer worked on several cattle ranches outside of Elko.

Despite his love of history, Fischer chose not to make it his profession, instead becoming a dentist. He began practicing in 1976 and closed his office last month, when he accepted his current position.

“I enjoyed being a dentist, but after 31 years you can look at new horizons. History and the arts was my avocation and dentistry was my profession. Now that has switched,” Fischer said.

With the Legislature beginning shortly after he started as director, Fischer said learning the budget has been his greatest challenge.

The Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs budget is one-half of 1 percent of the state’s total budget – it is contained in five, three-inch binders.

“What will make me successful at this job is a diligent work ethic and a desire to learn, along with the dedicated staff that I have,” Fischer said. “My whole life, if I have decided to do something, I work hard until I accomplish it.”

But Fischer said it’s a labor of love, both because he enjoys history and because of what is contained in the department he now captains.

“You couldn’t overemphasize the treasures we have contained in the different areas of this department. Both the physical treasures and the dedicated professionals who work for us,” Fischer said.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at or 881-1217.

Michael Fischer

Office: Director of Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs

Age: 58

Education: Bachelor of science in pre-dentistry from the University of Nevada, Reno and Doctor of Dental Surgery from University of Southern California.

Family: Wife, Janet, and two grown daughters Meredith and Jennifer.

Previous experience: Lifelong member of the Western Folklife Center, member Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering, past president of the Douglas County Historical Society, former Douglas County Commissioner, Chautauqua performer as Gov. John Sparks and H.F. Dangberg Jr. Ran a dental practice in Gardnerville for 31 years, closed his office to take current position.

Some advice

With their new boss on the job for about a month, Michael Fischer’s department heads give him their biggest request and some helpful advice.

“I would ask him to help the division of museums and history work with the Legislature to establish a division-wide fund for collections enhancement. Nevada’s history and heritage is being scattered across the country. We are losing collections because we don’t have a fund to respond quickly and purchase them.

“My advice for him is to reach out to cultural institutions outside the department of cultural affairs. There is great potential in those working partnerships.”

Peter Barton

acting director of Division of Museums and History

“I would like to see a Nevada state digital library and archives. See everything we have in a digital format and a centralized location that is available to the public.

“He needs a lot of patience. Government moves slowly and especially here in Nevada because we are so fiscally conservative that sometimes it takes longer. I also advise him to be proactive and resilient. If you get knocked down, get back up and keep working for what you see as important.”

Guy Rocha

Nevada State Library and Archives interim division administrator

“I would ask him to understand the complex nature of our agency, but he’s already there. I would ask that he advocate for the diverse mandates of the entire department with sensitivity and enthusiasm, which I believe he already does.

“Everyone says what a nice fellow he is, but he has a profound understanding and sensitivity to what we do here.”

Ron James

Nevada state historic preservation officer

“I would ask him to visit as many of our grantees as possible, so he can see first hand the wealth of art being created, presented and promoted by Nevada artists, arts organizations, schools and public institutions.

“My advice to him is to avoid conversations about the difference between good and bad art.”

Susan Boskoff

Nevada Arts Council executive director