You know my methods, Watson – but perhaps not my museum’s…

Posted: 20/02/2014 in News & Analysis
Tags: , , , ,

The Sherlock Holmes Museum has jobs, but don’t all rush at once! Really, don’t rush. They have a rather idiosyncratic curator-director, Andrea von Ehrenstein…

Vacancies

The museum is advertising for tour guides, a front-of-house “Victorian policeman”, a cleaner, a graphic designer, a (social) media manager-style Baker Street Times newspaper editor, a retail sales manager and a personal assistant to the curator.

By its own reckoning, the museum is ‘a quirky crowd of people who love to have fun’. Its (successful) applicants will be ‘out-going and friendly’, doing a job that ‘requir[es] charisma and sometimes diplomacy!’

Enquiries

The other day, experienced artist-curator Rachel Fox (@youlovefox) enquired about one of the vacancies and ‘received a series of the most rude and unprofessional emails [she had] ever seen from the Curator of the Sherlock Holmes Museum’.

There is nothing like first-hand evidence

Fox asked,

Dear Andrea von Ehrenstein,

I have recently seen your position for retail staff advertised on the Arts Council website and wondered if you could tell me a little more about it?

If possible to have a slightly more detailed job specification? Also what are the contracted days/hours? I also see you have advertised the position as in the £25 – £35k threshold, could you please give more details of the rates of pay?

Many thanks in advance,

Rachel

Von Ehrenstein replied,

Hi

You have to think first whether we might want to answer all your questions even supposing we had the time.

The first thing is to send your CV to an employer and then ask questions if the employer is at all interested in you.

You are putting yourself first in life instead of thinking about what the other person might want from you.

We are not interested in a series of questions from a person who cannot be bothered to include their own CV in their enquiry.

It sounds very much like you are simply working for a recruitment agency.

If I can assist further please let me know.

… Further!…

Yours sincerely

Andrea von Ehrenstein

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth

Did von Ehrenstein really say that? Would anyone really say that?

Tour Guide Girl noted that she’d ‘heard rumours about the Sherlock Holmes Museum on the London museum employee circuit, but gosh…’ ‘This doesn’t exactly promote a career in museums…’

One of Such Heights’ friends ‘applied there back in September with similar results‘ (and was copied into the tweet so that the claim could be checked). Two of Nikki Jayne’s ‘friends have worked there/applied, and they have NOT had a good time. Lucky escape @youlovefox!’ Lancashirelady was unsurprised.

One former employee identified himself. Paul Williams ‘worked at the Sherlock Holmes Museum for a year and saw some appalling things.’ ‘No contract was ever presented.’

Lia Leaf asked about the possibility of part-time work and any requirements concerning accent and was told,

Hi – You ask too many questions – simply apply stating your limitations and then worry about things later.

You won’t impress an employer if you ask these types of inane questions

If I can assist further please let me know.

Yours sincerely

Andrea von Ehrenstein

It should at least serve as a ‘reminder not to write anything in an email you wouldn’t want to see in Huff Post.’ (And it did get into the Huffington Post.) Seriously, ‘way for the Sherlock Holmes Museum to prove it’s a terrible place to work‘. ‘Imagine how horrible it would’ve been to work for her.’

But people didn’t just comfort Fox that she’d ‘[d]odged a bullet‘. They didn’t only think themselves lucky. ‘I certainly wouldn’t want to work for them.’ ‘Wow. Remind me never to work for the Sherlock Holmes museum.’ ‘Note to self: Don’t do work for the Sherlock Holmes museum.’

They started warning people. ‘Don’t apply for a job at The Sherlock Holmes Museum.’ ‘I suspect Sherlock Holmes Museum hasn’t made the shortlist of employers the candidate would consider working for.’ ‘Wow. Recruiters take note: you’re being assessed as much as the applicant.’

The plot thickens…

When Fox replied to Ehrenstein, she ‘was told [her] email had been blocked and reported as spam. Speechless.’

Queries

Some of the soft victimblaming and bizarre-yet-inevitable outright attacks on the victim of this abuse have suggested that she should have checked the museum’s website. First of all, the museum should have put all of the relevant details in the advert. Second, if it wanted a short advert, it should have included a link to the full advert on its own website, or even to its website at all. It gave von Ehrenstein’s e-mail address as the contact point.

But checking the museum’s website may not have helped. The museum’s advert on the Arts Council’s website offers ‘a customer service and retail position which you will carry out whilst in Victorian costume‘ for a salary of £30-40K; or ‘full-time staff [positions]… in the museum and gift shop’ for £25-30K; yet its own website offers costumed retail positions for £90 per day (£80 pay, £10 in lieu of holiday(?)), £450 per week, a salary of £23,400 at most.

It is better to learn wisdom late than never to learn it at all

Terry Anderson thought it was ‘[t]horoughly appropriate that the curator of the Sherlock Holmes museum be a high functioning sociopath‘. But Alexandra Edwards objected to the fact that the Sherlock Holmes Museum was run by ‘incredibly rude people who enjoy shaming jobseekers‘ or, as Finkowska assessed, ‘arseholes‘.

Von Ehrenstein’s behaviour hasn’t only harmed the museum’s workforce and guaranteed that its future workers will be economically and/or professionally desperate instead of aspiring. ‘Rude to jobseekers asking for advice!’ Rosa Gilbert left a one-star review on the museum’s Facebook page and declared, ‘I will never visit this place now.’

Others did likewise on Twitter (where the museum can’t delete any condemnations). ‘Have never been to the Sherlock Holmes Museum and having read how they treat potential job hunters, I don’t think I ever shall. Disgraceful.’ ‘I for one will not be visiting the Sherlock Holmes museum now.’ ‘I’ll not be visiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum ever.’ ‘Will not be visiting…. I won’t support them.’

Will Andrea von Ehrenstein learn wisdom late?

Ragdoll observed that ‘[t]he response @youlovefox received from [the] hideous woman at the Sherlock Holmes Museum highlights everything [that’s] wrong with the employment process’. Obviously, even unbearable bosses have power over people looking for work, so this brave protest won’t lead to revolutionary change. Von Ehrenstein hasn’t even apologised. But hopefully more abused (would-be) employees will find the courage to speak out and more abusive (would-be) employers will be forced to behave in a professional manner.

Comments
  1. Lexi Wolfe says:

    I applied for them ages ago, but because I was an actress, was told I wasn’t ‘normal enough’…She does seem like a very weird character, and literally the last person who should be running something as beloved and valuable as the Sherlock Holmes Museum!

    • samarkeolog says:

      Yes, an actress who’s enthusiastic about Sherlock Holmes and museum work certainly wouldn’t be a good fit for an acting job at the Sherlock Holmes Museum… O.o I would say you’re better off out of it, but it’s not like that when you’re looking for work.

    • John Brownbill says:

      I applied for them a while ago also, I am also an actor and Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, I have also worked in a museum, I feel the fact that they want people over 6ft is highly prejudicial to people of a shorter height (I myself am 5ft 9)I feel this is prejudicial and would recommend someone else be found to run the museum, Holmes and Watson themselves are somewhat older than would be needed to truly give people an interesting and enjoyable time at The Sherlock Holmes Museum (and I haven’t even visited)

  2. […] into my work or tease it out from there, because I am inveterate dole scum. And whether it’s labour, looting or destruction – short of action that would limit any subsequent public engagement […]

  3. cammckirdy says:

    Just finished a 5 day trial at the museum, the money was good and the staff all very lovely people however. After the 5 day trial shift they sent me an email telling me i wasn’t experienced enough to do the job on a full time basis… for those who don’t know what the work is there its basically standing and being nice to customers, taking tickets and putting stock back on the shelves, my degree and my 2 previous retail jobs clearly didn’t give me enough experience to deal with that kind of responsibility.. Although the Managers wouldn’t know, they rarely leave the office to check on their staff.

    I didn’t mention the fact that not one of the staff members has a “contract” and after going out on a social with some of the current and former staff they joked that very few leave on their own accord from the sherlock Holmes museum.

    the Job market is horrible, and someone with an arts degree like myself and others will find it even more horrible however after some reflection id say id rather be unemployed than work for the Sherlock Holmes museum.

  4. Lucie says:

    I did a brief trial at the museum too, several years ago. Again very nice staff, good money (cash in hand), but I was told I wasn’t needed again after a few days, and left wondering where I’d gone wrong.

    The other members of staff were confused as to why they kept hiring new people, as there were too many people working there already and no real vacancies going. I’ve noticed since that they have job adverts posted all over the place, throughout the year. How can they always be recruiting? How can such a tiny museum have an endless need for new staff?

    It was an eccentric and slightly creepy man in charge when I was there. I thought maybe he just liked leafing through the photo applications from eager young people and meeting them in his office, to sort of pass the time.. He didn’t seem to be busy with much else.

    There’s certainly some kind of dodgy going on there.

  5. Alice says:

    I had reservations about applying for a job at the Sherlock Holmes Museum, as I’d heard some rumours and was also sceptical because they seem to be constantly hiring. I decided to give it a go anyway. After doing the 5 trial days, I was given the job and did one more day of work, they said for the next week they would call me to let me know about shifts (they were apparently behind on sorting out the rota) I didn’t hear for several days so called them. Andrea answered (sounding almost irritated I wanted to know when I was working in the new job I had been given) she told me that ‘The position had been filled’ (I had already heard them use this line to fire other people) I asked what I had done wrong, and she said ‘It’s nothing personal, we just felt more comfortable with someone else’ – surely it was personal as I had done nothing wrong.

    Whilst on trial there, several people got fired for little reason, most didn’t make it through after a trial and all staff there apart from one had not been working more than 6 months, I had also been told stories by the staff of people being fired for the strangest reasons.

    I think, either there’s something dodgy going on, or Andrea just enjoys hiring and firing people – I suppose she has to fill her time somehow.

    Anyway, the point I wanted to make for anyone thinking of applying. Do not do it if you are relying on the money (I’m fortunate enough to have another job) and even if you have nothing to lose, for the sake of those that do, don’t apply, because as long as there are plenty of people applying for the jobs there, they can continue to exploit their workers. I’m just angry at myself for encouraging this behaviour.

  6. John says:

    I like to think of my experience at working at the Sherlock Holmes Museum as a quite strange story, “Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Disappearing Staff”

    I finished my 5th trial day at the Sherlock Holmes Museum. I should have clocked it earlier, but every day I was there, there were at least 10 new people being interviewed. All the staff were new, except about 7 or 8. I completed my trial, which went smoothly, was great fun and really got along with all the staff. On following up after my trial I phoned in the morning and was told they would contact me in the evening. I received an email with a short (two sentence) message, “we will not be requiring you for any further shifts, cheques in the post…”.

    Firstly I was shocked, there was nothing that lead me to believe there was anything wrong. I wasn’t disappointed about not getting the job, although wasn’t sure why I wasn’t successful, more on which they way the managers handled it. On following up why I wasn’t successful, the once approachable managers, turned into a scripted machine. “We are unable to offer you any reason”.

    The more I look into it, the more i’m convinced the job is a ploy to get temp staff during their busiest time of year on lower pay. They chose 5 non-consectitive trial days in order to fill up days they need more people then dispose of you afterwards, I would hate to think how long this has gone on for. I feel mislead and angry and would highly recommend not to go for a position here, and if you do, expect to be dropped with no notice or reason.

  7. KC says:

    My oh my, all this information makes me feel a great deal better about my limited experience. I had an interview for the Sherlock Holmes Museum last week. The curator was late, so my interview (when it finally started) felt rushed. I was asked about what type of work I was looking for, when I replied short term (her terminology) I got told ‘I don’t know if we should bother continuing with this interview.’ One does not have to be observant to note a distinct lack of friendliness or professionalism from a person who should embody nothing but good qualities. I completed the interview anyway, listening to stories of how some of their previous staff had no common sense. Andrea and Laura both seemed to warm to me and said they would be in touch. I doubt they will but thanks to this post I dare say I dodged a bullet. On a positive note, the staff that was there that day came across well, the museum itself is charming despite its size. Something tells me that the great Sherlock Holmes himself would probably find himself unemployed by that establishment.

    • geekchic1994 says:

      Hi — I was just wondering if you knew anyone who had worked there for more than 5 trials? Were there any staff that you met who had been there for a long time, or does this sort of thing seem to occur with all people who are hired?

      • Sam Hardy says:

        Sorry, I don’t know anyone who’s worked there (as far as I know); I just pulled some public information together, then people started finding this.

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