Signs with catchy slogans line the roads near Maine state borders, beckoning tourists to enjoy their stay in the Valhalla of vacationlands: "Maine: The Way Life Should Be" and "Worth a Visit, Worth a Lifetime."

Senior Nellie Connolly is exploring the culture of this particular tourist industry for her honors project.

"I wanted to do an in-depth study of the place where I've lived for four years," she said.

Connolly, a history major, is studying the development and identity of Maine tourism through a case study of the community on Mount Desert Island, the largest of Maine's coastal islands.

"I was really interested in studying the development of this island and gaining a better historical understanding of the place. I went up there twice last summer and it is strikingly beautiful," said Connolly.

Mount Desert Island has historically been a summer retreat for the upper echelons of American society. Connolly explains that the tourist industry on Mount Desert Island began in 1850s with an onslaught of artists and outsiders called "rusticators."

By the turn of the 20th century, a new class of tourists descended on the region. The members of the "Cottager class" built grandiose summer homes on the island reminiscent of the Newport mansions.

"The cottager class included people like the Rockefellers and the Pulitzers," said Connolly. "It was basically a Who's Who of American people living on Mount Desert Island at the time."

As the cottagers continued to summer on the island, Connolly explains, conflict grew between locals and summer residents.

"The summer community of the island got more exclusive, and there was increasing tension between the two groups," she said.

The conflict grew especially apparent with the popularization of the automobile.

"There was a sort of automobile war. Cottagers didn't want cars on the island, they felt it would ruin their pristine summer vacationland," said Connolly. "The locals obviously wanted automobiles for their economic interests."

This debate over a sense of place and ownership continues today.

"It's basically a manifestation of the same issues in different times," Connolly said.

For Connolly, the project has been a rewarding challenge despite many hours spent in the library.

"At the end I'll look back and be proud of producing this," she said.

Connolly credits her advisor, history professor Matthew Klingle, in providing consistent and helpful feedback.

"[Klingle] is a really smart guy and it's really neat to have conversations with him," she said. "A project like this is a great way to work one on one with a professor here at Bowdoin."

Connolly is considering going into teaching or business after graduation.

"Some people do these projects to work towards getting their PhD in history," she said. "For me, the honors project a good way to do something I might not get the chance to do again."