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Facebook user “joe1915” writes wall posts that would be familiar to any college student these days: He stresses about tests, roots for his university’s football team, and shows off photos from campus dances.
But Joe McDonald isn’t an average smartphone-toting student. He died in 1971 — 33 years before Facebook arrived on the Web.
Donnelyn Curtis, the director of research collections and services at the University of Nevada at Reno, created Facebook profiles for Mr. McDonald and his wife, Leola Lewis, to give students a glimpse of university life during the couple’s college days. Ms. Lewis graduated in 1913, and Mr. McDonald earned his degree in mechanical engineering two years later.
With approval from Mr. McDonald’s granddaughter, Peggy McDonald, Ms. Curtis said she’s using archival material for a history project designed to appeal to a wider audience than the typical patrons of special collections.
“We’re just trying to help history come alive a little bit for students,” she said. At first, only extended family members bothered to “friend” with the pair’s profiles, but as the audience grew, Ms. Curtis said she had to find a humorous voice that would appeal to contemporary students who use Facebook every day.