Often It is asked if it is possible to perform picture restoration. I can restore pictures but it is only a digital copy of your pictures that I restore, not the physical picture itself. Actually restoring the pictures surface is something best left to photo preservation experts found in museum departments.
The ultimate goal of having your picture restored is to allow it to be digitally copied and restored 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.
For example, restoring an old cracked and rolled up photo would require it to be unrolled. If it is brittle, the picture to be restored 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.
The best way to do this would be in a controlled environment, properly monitored to avoid over saturation. Picture restoration 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 containments is paramount because 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 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 picture restoration can begin whereby the picture is scanned and then restored as in the conventional photo or picture restoration process.