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The Western Algebraic Geometry Symposium traces its origins back to the Utah-UCLA Algebraic Geometry Seminar started in 1989 by Herb Clemens, David Gieseker, Michael Green, János Kollár, Rob Lazarsfeld, Ziv Ran and Mei-Chu Chang. Later on, it became the Utah-UCLA-Chicago Algebraic Geometry Seminar. Sadly, as senior figures moved east, the original WAGS faded away.

In 2002, WAGS was resurrected and is currently active with semi-annual meetings of algebraic geometers in the Western half of the United States and Canada. These meetings aim to provide ample time for chatting, as well as a good number of research talks. The conference has been consistently attracting over 50 participants.

WAGS is partially supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

In 2011 a new feature was added to the WAGS conferences: One of the speakers is requested to give a Bourbaki-style talk about an important field of algebraic geometry. In 2012 these lectures were named the "Mendebaldeko Lectures" honoring the late Basque algebraic geometer Hirune Mendebaldeko.