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 and CEO in 2004.
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. The Dan L Duncan wing opened in 2012 and doubled the size of the exhibition space and tripled the classroom and education support space to accommodate the 500,000 school children who visit HMNS every year.
He has played key roles in developing temporary, special exhibitions and permanent exhibit halls. He led the design and installation of the internationally-renowned Wiess Energy Hall which opened in 2013. To compliment the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, Bartsch has expanded the museum’s educational displays with the addition of the Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault and Dorothy and Artie McFerrin Faberge Gallery.
Bartsch graduated from Lamar High School in Houston, Texas, studied mining engineering at the Colorado School of Mines and received his Bachelor of Arts from Concordia University at Austin, Texas. He holds a master’s degree in the history of science from Rice University where he is currently a PhD candidate. His museum career has included positions at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, the Texas Memorial Museum in Austin, the Lyman Museum in Hilo, Hawaii and California State Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa, California. In 1991 Bartsch returned to HMNS as curator of Earth sciences. He was later appointed curator of gems and minerals, a position he has retained during his tenure as museum president.
Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals
Dorothy and Artie McFerrin Gallery
Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault