The first step in any collections conservation process is a detailed examination of the object. How was it made? What materials was it made from? Has it been modified by use? Have there been previous repairs or restorations?
Conservators are often the workers who look most closely at single objects - recording these findings is essential for future interpretation of the object.
Visual examination and visible light photography are always employed, but examination under microscopes or ultraviolet light, x-radiography, or even CT scanning may be necessary to fully understand an object and record its condition before the correct treatment can be determined.
Determination of the nature of organic or inorganic components may be done by a simple wet chemistry spot tests or by more advanced instrumental techniques such as FTIR, XRF, or SEM/EDS. Meticulous recording of the techniques, materials and outcomes of treatment, and archiving of the resulting reports and analytical data as aids for future workers, are essential to the present and future understanding the objects in our care.