Skeletal structures, such as medial axis and curve skeleton, are a particular class of shape descriptors. They have numerous applications in shape recognition, shape retrieval, animation, morphing, registration, and virtual navigation. This talk will give a brief overview of the medial axis and the curve skeleton. The focus will be on the properties of the two objects crucial to applications. We shall show that the rigorous mathematical definition of the medial axis has allowed for an extensive and successful study of such properties. The curve skeleton, on the other hand, is typically defined by the set of properties it has to possess. As a result, numerous methods for computing the curve skeleton have been proposed, each providing mostly experimental verification of the required properties. If time permits, I will mention my work on defining shape skeleta via persistent homology, thus providing a powerful platform for investigating their properties.