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Brief Published: 5 May 2021

Snapchat AR Monuments Honour Untold Stories

LACMA Monumental Perspectives

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is using augmented reality (AR) to breathe new life into familiar spaces, recontextualising and revealing hidden stories. With the help of geolocated Snapchat lenses it has created virtual monuments that add to the growing conversation around the accuracy of representations of history in monuments, murals and public works of art.

As part of a multi-year initiative called Monumental Perspectives, LACMA and Snapchat's partnership has seen the creation of five AR artworks that highlight untold stories and perspectives in locations across the city, viewable through the Snapchat app. The pieces touch on topics such as the role local food vendors (often from marginalised backgrounds) play in the city, as well as the story of Biddy Mason – a formerly enslaved person who escaped to California after travelling thousands of miles on foot. The launch coincided with the International Day for Monuments and Sites (April 18), which encouraged people to reimagine their ideas of representation, legacy and advocacy in the digital age.

In SXSW 2021: Hyper-Social Consumers, we covered The New York Times' (NYT) AR tour of Chinatown, New York, which took a similar approach. Monica Drake, assistant managing editor at the NYT, said: "AR is ready to become a meaningful part of our lives, since it encourages you to turn your camera off yourself, and start using a world-facing camera." In that vein, LACMA's work aims to inspire new audiences to study local history, while targeting younger demographics through Snapchat.

Geolocated AR can also be used for entertainment purposes. Catalysed by widespread 5G adoption, Disney is ostensibly planning to bring AR to its theme parks – potentially a smart way to keep visitors entertained while queueing.

For more, see Creating the Connected Festival.