Created in 2007 to increase awareness among the people of Houston of the history of the city and its surrounding area, the Houston History Alliance (HHA) supports other groups in the region that seek to tell their portion of that story. Originally named the Houston History Association, the organization’s bylaws were established in January 2007, and 501(c)(3) status was established in the summer of that year.
In 2005 Houston mayor Bill White tasked Betty Trapp Chapman with the creation of a task force focused on how to elevate Houston’s history within the minds of its citizenry. Chapman created five committees, which presented final recommendations to Mayor White on July 31, 2006. The Houston History Association was the product of one of those recommendations. Though the nascent organization received support from Mayor White, it was established as an independent entity, a separately chartered organization in the state of Texas and not directly affiliated with the city government of Houston.
In 2008 HHA brought together the many history-focused organizations operating within the Houston area at the Building Bridges Conference held on February 23, 2008, at the Elizabeth D. Rockwell Pavilion at the M. D. Anderson Library on the University of Houston campus. The conference was facilitated by Laura Nichol and was co-sponsored by the Center for Public History at the University of Houston.
The organization changed its name in 2015 to its current title of Houston History Alliance instead of Houston History Association to better position itself as a connection point between the general public and the many history-centric organizations telling the story of Houston. The purpose of the program was to generate support among the many groups for HHA’s goals and to encourage participation by the groups in elevating Houston’s history within the minds and hearts of the citizenry. As of 2017 the organization has a twenty-member board consisting of history professors, non-academic historians, and history enthusiasts from all walks of life. The organization maintains a website that provides public access to a variety of research resources, Houston-focused archives, and information about the group’s upcoming public programs.
On October 29, 2011, the organization held its first Houston History Conference, entitled Milestones and Arrivals: 175 Years of Coming to Houston. Subsequent conferences were: Building Houston: From Allen’s Landing to the Moon, June 2, 2012; Rogues, Rascals and Role Models: Famous and Infamous Residents of the Bayou City, May 4, 2013; Houston: Born on the Bayou, Built on the Port, October 11, 2014; On the Cusp of War: Houston in the 1860s, September 1, 2015; and The History of Houston’s Musical Soul, October 1, 2016.
In addition to maintaining a website, other organization activities include the publication of a newsletter, the HHA Courier; and the creation of the “Guide for Researching Neighborhood Histories,” which is provided free to the public.
The largest and most involved endeavor to date is the group’s leadership in the development of the online Handbook of Houston, in partnership with the Texas State Historical Association. Originally conceived as a comprehensive encyclopedia of Houston’s history, the Handbook of Houston was made possible with the support of the Houston Endowment, the Center for Public History at the University of Houston, and the Texas State Historical Association.