Wood Anatomy Digital Image Library Film-to-Digital Project

Introduction: Beginning in 1972 the NCB Center began the study of the three-dimensional structure of wood using a scanning electron microscope. SEM images of wood anatomical features of several hundred species were collected on 4 by 5-inch film and stored in the NCB files. Recently these negatives have been digitized with purpose to preserve and share their content. Many are pictures of wood “cubes” that show transverse, radial and tangential surfaces of the wood.  Many others are magnified views of pits, pit arrangements, perforation plates and other minute anatomical features which are useful for the study of wood anatomy and identification.  In addition this project includes other sets of negatives; insects, flower parts, state fair exhibit images, natural/synthetic fibers, and other miscellaneous materials. 

Images can be found here:

Scanning electron microscope images from 1973-1998.  With the acquisition of the first scanning electron microscope at ESF in 1972, the NCB Center for Ultrastructure Studies began various SEM projects to study the three-dimensional structure of wood and other biological materials.  SEM images were collected on 4 by 5-inch film and stored in the NCB files.  Prints of these images were created in the NCB darkrooms and have been used for displays at ESF and outreach events such as the NY State Fair.  These prints are also stored in the NCB files.  With the advent of digital imaging, and no longer a need for darkroom printing, a few of the SEM negatives were converted to digital images as needed using a professional film scanner.  Beginning in about 2011 SEM negatives of selected hardwoods and softwoods were scanned as needed for teaching, in particular class materials for RMS 387/587 Renewable Materials for Sustainable Construction, MCR 484, 783 SEM class and other courses. 

Recognizing the value of archiving and sharing this collection of SEM negatives, in 2018 several hundred negatives of softwoods, hardwoods, insects, and other biological samples SEMs were scanned into digital files using a high-resolution Epson film scanner.  This was accomplished with the help of undergraduate student Marissa Lanzatella.  Later, in 2020, image processing of the scanned negatives was performed to improve he usefulness of the images for display.  Both the original scans and processed images are archived in the Center’s database.  Original scans with magnification bar are available upon request.

Acknowledgments:  Contributors to the film-to-digital project 2018-2020: Marissa Lanzatella (EFB, 2018); Christina Anagnost; Susan Anagnost.  The original wood sample preparation and image acquisition on the SEM were by Mr. Arnold Day of the NC Brown Center for Ultrastructure Studies from 1972 to around 1994.  Much of the photographic processing was by Mr. Jack McKeon of the center. The sample and images of Rhamnus cathartica (Buckthorn) was prepared by Susan Anagnost.

Author: Susan Anagnost


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