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About the WHA

The Western History Association was founded in 1961 by a group of professional and avocational historians bound by their belief in the American West as a place rich in history and deserving of further study. "Its purpose shall be to promote the study of the North American West in its varied aspects and broadest sense," read the WHA's early constitution. Today, the WHA office is located in the History Department at the University of Kansas. The association is composed of around 1,100 active members with a common mission. Learn more about the WHA Governance and Standing Committees, read the WHA Constitution & By Laws, WHA Diversity Statement, and WHA Code of Conduct.  

2021 Conference: Portland, Oregon!

Mark your calendars for the 61st Annual WHA Conference, October 27-30, 2021. Currently, the WHA is planning for an in-person conference in Portland, Oregon. Head over to the 2021 Conference Website to register and learn more updates!

The WHA leadership is closely monitoring the current public health crisis and rise in coronavirus cases. We are following CDC guidelines and state, county, and municipal public health directives. As we collect more information, the office will keep all participants and attendees informed of any changes to the current conference format. The WHA strongly urges all 2021 conference attendees to be fully vaccinated at least two weeks before traveling to Portland in October.

The WHA moved to the University of Kansas!

On July 1 of this year, the WHA opened its operations in the History Department at the University of Kansas, the organization’s new institutional host. Elaine Nelson remains in her role as the WHA Executive Director and joined the KU History Department faculty as an Assistant Professor of History. The KU History Department has an award-winning faculty with strengths in several areas of study, including western, environmental, and Native American history. The WHA will benefit from the support of the dynamic faculty, staff, and graduate students who work to maintain the department’s national reputation. We are confident that the organization’s transition to KU will allow the WHA an opportunity to continue to expand its core mission and initiatives. There are already conversations underway about how the WHA will contribute to the graduate student community and offer collaborative opportunities with faculty across a variety of KU programs.

WHA Message on Covid-19

The Western History Association recognizes the significant impact that Covid-19 brings to the personal and professional lives of our members and affiliates around the world. The WHA staff and leadership is closely monitoring the situation and will make careful, informed decisions in the months leading up to our annual conference in October. The WHA staff, which transitioned to work remotely on March 9, will alert members and conference participants with urgent updates in a timely manner through email, social media accounts, and the WHA website. We are living in difficult times which call upon us to be flexible and generous. We are deeply grateful for the service, support, and dedication you provide to the WHA, and we hope you are well and taking care of yourselves, families, colleagues, and communities.

Statement on Diversity

The WHA is an organization that encourages diverse representation in the historical profession and the field of western history. In 2011 the organization adopted a statement on diversity and updated it in 2017:

“The North American West has been both home to many different groups with divergent belief systems and cultural practices, and a place in which people often experience shifting identities. The Western History Association strives to reflect the richness of our regions. We seek to be an association of historians of diverse backgrounds who thrive in the spirit of mutual respect and engaged curiosity.” 

WHA Policy on Sexual Harassment & Sexual Misconduct and Enforcement Policy


The Western History Association (WHA) works to maintain an environment that allows persons in the historical profession to flourish by encouraging respectful, inclusive, and equitable treatment of all who participate in WHA activities.  As a statement of principle, the WHA rejects harassment, discrimination, and retaliation by any means, based on sex, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.  Sexual harassment creates a hostile environment that impedes the advancement of historical knowledge by marginalizing individuals and communities.  It also damages productivity and career growth, and prevents the healthy exchange of ideas.  We affirm that discrimination and harassment are unacceptable in any research or learning environment.  The WHA is committed to providing a safe, productive, and welcoming environment for all. 

The following policy pertains to all WHA activities, including events associated with WHA conferences and any WHA-related business occurring throughout the year.  It encompasses interactions in person, by telephone, and by electronic communication.  The policy applies to all members and participants as well as employees, contractors, vendors, volunteers, and guests.

Read the full policy and the *new* enforcement clause here.

WHA Mission Statement

WHA Mission: "The Western History Association strives to be a congenial home for the study and teaching of all aspects of North American Wests, frontiers, homelands and borderlands. Our mission is to cultivate the broadest appreciation of this diverse history." 

To accomplish this mission, we

  • Enable collaborations among peoples, institutions and organizations, devoted to the study of western history.
  • Conduct an annual meeting  at which scholars and other professionals join students and laypeople to share their research, to exchange ideas, and to develop programs that facilitate further study of the north American west
  • Publish a journal that employs rigorous peer reviews to identify, improve and distribute original scholarship
  • And promote public education through active involvement with teachers, museums, libraries, and other venues”

The WHA is located in the Department of History at the University of Kansas.

The WHA is grateful to KU's History Department and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for their generous support!

Western History Association

University of Kansas | History Department

1445 Jayhawk Blvd. | 3650 Wescoe Hall

Lawrence, KS 66045 | 785-864-0860