Early-1900s Students Get Second Life, Thanks to Facebook

A college librarian put a collegiate couple online to give a glimpse of historic university life

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Courtesy of University of Nevada at Reno

Donnelyn Curtis, The University of Nevada at Reno’s director of research collections, has turned a historic couple into a modern one, creating Facebook pages—with the blessing of family members—for the two students who graduated from the school and later married.

Joe McDonald and Leola Lewis offer current Nevada students a look at college life around 1913, when Lewis graduated (McDonald graduated in 1915), all through Curtis’ historically accurate eyes.

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The Facebook pages tell the stories of the two, how they grew up and how they married in 1915. Joe even wears a nifty Nevada sweater in his profile picture and has posted photos of the couple at a school dance.

“We’re just trying to help history come alive a little bit for students,” Curtis tells the Chronicle of Higher Education. “It’s been hard to walk the line between being historically accurate and making it interesting for college students.”

Using archival material to inform the status updates, Curtis hopes to educate students about the depth of the school’s collections. McDonald, who died in 1971, lists boxing and hanging out with friends as interests, while Lewis mentions embroidery and ranching as things she enjoys.

As the life and times of the 1910s catch on, Curtis hopes to expand the couple’s circle of friends, possibly including a mutual friend of the couple who ended up working in a mine. Hey, not everyone has a college degree, even in 1915.

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