Thursday, June 01, 2017

Staff Spotlight: Ed Tant Retires After Seventeen Years

Walk into the Georgia Museum of Art any day and you will see a security guard with long, white hair. This man, Ed Tant, is well known by visitors and staff alike for his wry humor and dedication to his job. He has become almost a permanent fixture at the museum, so many people are surprised to hear of his upcoming retirement. We are extremely thankful for his time here and will miss him greatly. Be sure to stop by and say hello to Ed before he retires on Thursday, June 22! We met with Ed to discuss his time here and hear what advice he had to share.

Ed in the Byrnece Purcell Knox Swanson Gallery.
Clockwise from top, the works behind him are by Ben Shahn,
Paul Cadmus and Jacob Lawrence. Image: Stephanie Motter
How many years have you been working here?

Almost 17. I started in August 2000.

What did you do before you joined the museum?

I worked for eight years at Book Peddlers [a bookstore located here in Athens].

What have you learned after being a security guard at a museum? 

I’ve learned that my job is to protect art from art lovers. Most people don’t mean any harm, but they forget how sensitive art is and get too close or touch the works.

How is working security at a museum different than other places? 

If you work museum security it’s easier, other places have to deal with other problems like shoplifting. I like the peace and quiet of the museum, it’s calming.

What is your favorite memory from the museum? 

The kids on Family Day are fun to see enjoying the museum, and I enjoy meeting the artists. I’ve been in Athens since 1972, and I visited the museum back then. It’s been interesting to see the change of location and extension of the museum. I miss the north campus location, but I like that this museum is bigger and shows off more works of art.

What is a normal day like at the museum?

There is no normal day; expect the unexpected, predict the unpredictable. Some days you think it will be slower than others and then, out of nowhere, a bus full of people will pull up to the museum.

Security staff photo. Ed Tant (front, center right) is retiring
after 17 years at  the museum. Image: Michael Lachowski

Has working in a museum given you a greater appreciation for art?

I’ve always appreciated and been interested in art. I enjoy listening to the tours and learning more about the works; learning things you may not see at first glance.

What’s something you want people to know about security guards? 

We are here to protect the art. We really don’t want people to touch works because we want works that have survived hundred of years to be enjoyed by people for another hundred years. I believe everybody should work in museum security at some point in their lives; to walk a mile in our shoes. 

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen while working here? 

Art never quits; when you think you’ve seen it all, something new comes up. It’s also cool to see people come in uninterested but then find something they like. We’ve got something for everybody.

What do you plan on doing after retiring?

I don’t have much planned. I’ve never missed a day of work in 25 years, so I’ll enjoy relaxing for a change. I do plan on coming back and visiting the museum, but only as a guest.

What’s the biggest misconception about your job?

People think security guards are mean; people disparage security guards. We are trying to protect the art and preserve it for future generations. Security guards are more important than people think; a security guard discovered Watergate [a major political scandal during the Nixon era]. We really enjoy what we do.

What advice do you have for museum visitors? 

Do not touch the works or stand so close, and take time to enjoy the museum.




Interview by Stephanie Motter, Communications Intern


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