Old rolled photo restoration
Often It is asked if it is possible to perform an old rolled photo restoration. It is only a digital copy of your original that I restore, not the physical image itself. Actually conserving the pictures surface is something best left to photo conservators, whom can be contacted at museums and photo archives.
The ultimate goal of having your photo restored is to allow it to be digitized so any number of reprints can be made and handed around the immediate family or interested parties. If the photo is of particular historical interest or of genealogical importance, then the restoration is something that should be considered if the preservation of your family history is to be ensured.
Restoring an old cracked and rolled up photo would require it to be unrolled. If it is brittle, it will break up when forced against its natural curled up state. It will need to be relaxed and opened slowly. The way to restore the picture back to its original position is to introduce some moisture. A risky undertaking if not performed properly. Usually performed by document conservationists.
The best way to do this would be in a controlled environment, properly monitored to avoid over saturation. Restoring a photo in this manner is achieved by using de-ionised water vapour introduced into a small chamber or tent, to slowly moisten the paper to relax it and ease out the rolled photo. This could be done with an ultrasonic humidifier or home humidifier unit, which is perfect for introducing small, yet controlled amounts of moisture with no additional contaminants associated with plain tap water. Depending on the thickness of the picture this could take days to do, I read of one case taking 10 days. Keeping the area and environment clean and free from airborne contaminants is paramount if the there are any mould spores present, this is an ideal environment for them to flourish.
Slowly over a period of hours or days, the roll can be unfurled as the moisture penetrates the paper it can be weighed down. The time this takes depends on the picture to be restored, the thickness of the paper, or size or finish of the final photo.
The picture restoration can be carried out when the photo has been flattened and dried. To strengthen the fragile paper further it can be backed with acid free parchment and any flakes or cracked pieces can be restored to the picture with acid free glues or a starch paste. This restoring of the picture can also take time, as some can be like a jigsaw to replace the individual flakes ready for the digital picture restoration. Preservation artists such as those found in museums have immense patience and go to great lengths to replace as many of the original pieces as possible.
Once such museum I have contacted before, the Royal Academy of Arts in London perform this kind of dry repairs, but have yet to confirm if they have the moisture picture restoration facility.
Once in this dry state the digital photo restoration can begin whereby the picture is scanned and then restored as in the conventional way.