Austin Historical Snapchat Filters

As Austin, Texas rapidly expands, there are many new residents that have little knowledge of the city’s rich history. I created a series of Snapchat filters that transform Austin into a museum. This will help to educate the general public about Austin’s history, especially as it pertains to gentrification.


Full disclosure: I created this as my final project for HIS365G: The History of Museums, which is taught by Dr. Steven Mintz. We were asked to design a museum, but I wanted to take the museum outside.
My goal was to allow people to publicly engage with the history of their town. I especially wanted to focus on Black history in Austin because, time and time again, Black communities in Austin have been displaced and disrupted.


I began by searching the Portal to Texas History for photographs that represented the Black community in Austin. I was especially interested in groups and gathering spaces. I collected nearly thirty photos, but I could only use photos that had an identifiable location. This meant that I had to pare my collection down to ten.

Next, I used the Snapchat Lens studio program. This program allowed me to create Snapchat filters out of my collected photos. I put each photo in a picture frame so that viewers could see them the same way they would in a gallery.

Each Snapchat filter is accessible through an individualized QR code. In the future, I plan on printing these out on stickers and sticking the QR codes at the locations where the pictures were originally taken. The filter would allow people to see how the location they are standing in used to look.


Let’s take a look at one specific filter. The original picture for this is of the Anderson HS Class of 1889, as seen below:

Then, I used Lens Studio to 1) create the filter and 2) produce the QR code.

To use this filter, one would open the Snapchat app and scan the QR code. This would then open up the image, and it would look a bit like the following.

The background on this “phone” shows how the location where the picture was taken looks now. In the future, I want to paste this QR code here (near what is now Kealing Middle school). Curious passersby will see the location, then and now.


Really, I want people to stop in their walks to the bus stop, to the coffee shop, to wherever they’re going and think: what used to be here? Who used to be here?
Hopefully, this filter allows people to see that 130 years ago, there were different people here. Hopefully, people will begin to wonder: where did they go?
Geography is rarely an accident, but many people walk through the world unaware of the redlining, zoning, and gentrifying that allowed that bus stop or coffee shop to be there in the first place.
Take a second today and try to learn the history about just one city block around you. What was here 25 years ago? 50? 100?

Written on August 27, 2021