Like a kid in a candy store
Bob Harmon is the proverbial kid in a candy store.
From the fossilized mammoths and other critters to historical artifacts from Nevada’s frontier days, an upcoming cultural exhibit by Nevada’s Native American tribes to arts organizations working on hundreds of different projects around the state, he’s surrounded by things that have fascinated him since childhood.
And as the new public information officer for the state’s Department of Cultural Affairs, Harmon says it’s his job to tell everyone about them.
“Take all those components and put them all together in one department,” he said. “And now that department’s looking for PIO. When I saw this advertised, it was like a big neon sign. How could I not apply?”
For most of his career, Harmon’s focus has been what those in the business call “hard news.” He was an assignment editor for television stations in Los Angeles before he and his wife decided that wasn’t the place to raise a family.
He took the job as assignment editor at Reno’s KTVN for several years before becoming public affairs officer for the Attorney General’s Office, where he dealt daily with the major legal issues facing the state. Then he moved to a similar post with with Washoe County, dealing with local issues.
While he says they were all great jobs, “I think I’d like to grow old in this job.”
In fact, he admits he took a pay cut to take the Cultural Affairs job.
“This is a unique department,” he said. “All its services are services for the public to come and participate in. We’re giving the public something at ever turn.
“My challenge is making sure the public knows its there,” he said.
Harmon, 43, has been on the job just three weeks. He says he’s still finding something new every time he walked through the museums.
One of his first jobs was covering the annual meeting where the Arts Council decided how much money to award different arts, cultural and historic groups around the state.
“There’s hardly an historic building or group in this state that hasn’t been assisted by this office,” he said.
In fact, history is the tie that binds most of the department’s divisions from the museums to Historic Preservation and Archaeology, Archives and the state library.
“History is how we can know who we are and how we survive in this world,” he said. “And when you strip away the larger-than-life names and dates, you get to the people.”
“And all those people history paints as extraordinary are just ordinary people who made the decision to do something extraordinary.”
Their stories are recorded in a variety of ways — from the artifacts they left behind to the arts they used to survive, the artwork that expressed their feelings and, more recently, in words and pictures.
He said the story continues every day.
“A hundred years from now, people are going to look back and we’ll be their history,” he said.
And, at Cultural Affairs, he said, he’s surrounded by the people who will preserve that history.
“I love history.”