Probably an example of every type of material ever manipulated and utilized by man through out history will eventually find its way to a conservator for treatment and preservation. The term “art conservator”, commonly used to describe those that work to protect and preserve the physical remains of mankind's invention and creativity, is a misnomer. We are better described as conservators of cultural materials, as our work involves the preservation of a huge range of materials and artifacts, many of which would not qualify as “art” under its most accepted definition. From the sublime (a Leonardo da Vinci cartoon) to the ridiculous (a 19th century saloon singer's dress made entirely from rattlesnake skins), from the ancient (paleolithic cave paintings) to the new (a pair of Nike® Air Jordans), if they are in a collection somewhere, they are candidates for examination by a conservator.
Despite the variety of materials and artifacts facing us, professional conservators use common approaches to the care of collections and we share the same arsenal of tools.