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The IAU Commission 55 has its origins in a conference entitled "Communicating Astronomy to the Public" held at the US National Academy of Sciences in early October, 2003, sponsored by the US National Research Council and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, with support from NSF and NASA. A somewhat similar conference took place at IAC in Tenerife in 2002 and the third took place in June 2005 in Munich.

The meetings brought together an international group of "producers" of astronomical information (research scientists), "public information officers" (connected with large observatories and space missions), and "mediators" (science reporters and writers, staff members from museums, planetariums, and national parks, operators of commercial web sites focussed on astronomy, and a writer and a director of science fiction, as well as some K-12 and 2-year college teachers).

At this time an IAU Working Group called "Communicating Astronomy with the Public" was set up, which began the work of promulgating the Washington Charter, organising the
CAP2005 Conference at ESO and progressing the Virtual Repository (now the VAMP project). At the IAU General Assembly in Prague August 2006, the WG became a Commission (Commission 55), "Communicating Astronomy with the Public".