Native Texan and longtime Houstonian, Joel Bartsch was first hired as a security guard at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in 1984, and was appointed President & CEO of the Museum in 2004. His previous years of service at the Museum included his position as Curator of the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, and key roles as project manager for several of the Museum’s temporary exhibitions and permanent exhibit halls, including the nationally renowned Wiess Energy Hall.
Since Bartsch’s appointment as President, the Museum has doubled its membership and annual attendance. To accommodate this demand, Bartsch conceived and spearheaded an $85,000,000 capital campaign to build a 204,000 square feet addition to the Museum which doubled the size of the Museum’s public exhibition space. The new construction also tripled the amount of classrooms and education support space needed to accommodate the 500,000 school children who visit the Museum every year on school field trips. The capital campaign exceeded its goal and the Dan L Duncan wing opened to the public in 2012.
Bartsch graduated from Lamar High School in Houston, Texas, studied mining engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, and received his Bachelor of Arts from Concordia University at Austin, Texas. He holds a Masters Degree in the History of Science from Rice University and is currently a PhD Candidate, also at Rice University. His 32-year museum career has included positions at the Colorado School of Mines, the Texas Memorial Museum in Austin, and the Lyman Museum in Hilo, Hawaii. Prior to returning to Houston in 1991 as Curator of Earth Sciences, Bartsch also served as the Director of California State Mining & Mineral Museum in Mariposa, California.