Featured Collection

D-Lib Magazine
April 2002

Volume 8 Number 4

ISSN 1082-9873

Diner City

Photograph of the Heart O'Town Motel, Reno, NV.

Photograph of a classic western motel, the Heart O'Town Motel, Reno, NV. Copyright Ronald Saari. Used with permission.

Those who regularly read about the collections selected by D-Lib Magazine for this column know that some are very large in size and scope such as American Memory and the Exploratorium. However, other collections are featured because — while tightly focused on one primary topic, often holding particular fascination for the collector — they are excellent examples of digital collections, noteworthy for their capture and portrayal of digital images, for their effective preservation of their special topic and for their use of technology, like Ruth Muldrew's Vaudeville Memories or Jeffrey L Thomas' The Castle of Wales. It is just such a specialized collection that D-Lib is featuring this month.

Beginning in his childhood in the 1980's, Ron Saari, creator of Diner City, has had a special interest in diners. At that time, there was an abundance of them throughout the United States, especially in New Jersey (NJ) where he was living. However, Saari noticed that—as time passed and fast food restaurants proliferated—"Many [diners] have since been demolished. Others have been covered over with brick-face, stone-face or wood�A few NJ diners have been moved to the Midwest or overseas." Over the past few years, Saari has traveled throughout the U.S. photographing the diners that remain before they, too, are lost forever. He has also created a website to share the myriad of facts and lore he collected on his journeys and from additional resources.

Photograph of a cafe in Arizona.

Photograph of Joe And Aggies Cafe, Holbrook, AZ.
Copyright Ronald Saari. Used with permission.

Diner Facts addresses the question: What is a diner? While some might restrict the term to the type of materials used in their construction (usually stainless steel and porcelain enamel), others would include the menu and prices as what qualifies an eating establishment as a 'diner'. Still others might find the ambiance of diners even more important "�the diner is more than just a place to eat; a diner is also a place for conversation, a community center in some ways." Indeed, stopping for lunch at a diner can evoke in some people a longing for a time in America that, in retrospect, seems simpler and friendlier, even though such a view probably has more to do with nostalgia than with fact.

The Diner City collection offers glimpses of those times by extending coverage to other establishments of a style once common in the mid- to late-twentieth-century. For example, Saari presents a gallery of photos of classic motels and gas stations, and he extends the range of homey eateries to include cafés, coffee shops, drive-ins, hot dog stands and New York delicatessens.

Photograph of a gas station in Ohio.

Photograph of an old gas station on Lincoln Highway (Route 30), Minerva, Ohio. Copyright Ronald Saari. Used with permission.

Another feature of the site is the Diner Review Forum, a public forum where you can post reviews of diners you have visited. Saari provides a bibliography of diner-related books and for those with the RealplayerTM plugin (or wish to download a free version from the site), two video clips from diner-related movies. Be sure to notice the charming neon sign effect of the "E mail label" on the home page.

As the summer vacation season approaches, you might want to visit Diner City and plan a stop on your route at one of the diners reviewed at the web site. Even if you aren't making travel plans, you may just wish to take a trip down memory lane by visiting the Diner City web site at <http://www.dinercity.com/index.html.

Copyright © 2002 Corporation for National Research Initiatives

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DOI: 10.1045/april2002-featured.collection