Project leader: Lisa Walker, Associate Dean, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

The first aim of the project is to create a digital archive of the first destination beauty spa in the United States, called “Maine Chance Farm” that Elizabeth Arden established in Mount Vernon, Maine in 1934. A central part of the project is a fieldwork documentary project on Maine Chance.  It  involves collecting and digitizing, in searchable format, oral histories of Maine residents who worked at Maine Chance, which was in business from 1934 until 1970.

Professor Walker is collecting an array of other materials relate to Maine Chance, including real estate deeds, newspaper articles, advertisements, photographs, and images of vintage beauty technologies such as face patters, rollers, and passive exercise machines that would have been in use at the spa. She is working with a community partner on completing a photo documentary of the Arden estate before plans for renovation begin.

The second, more long-term aim of this project is to use the initial archive, which will be housed in the USM Digital Commons, as the basis for creating an accessible, user-friendly web site, to develop collaborative archive that encourages others who can play a role in documenting Maine Chance to contribute materials.

 The final website will include Professor Walker’s scholarship on New England regionalism and the history of spa culture and the beauty industry in the early to mid-twentieth century. The archive will allow scholars, aficionados of beauty culture (there are numerous beauty bloggers collecting images of early products, treatments, and beauty companies), visitors to Maine, and Maine residents to access information about a geographically isolated location in Arden’s international beauty empire, to learn more about rural Mainers’ experiences working in the leisure and tourism industry in the early- to mid- twentieth century, and to participate in documenting Maine history.