There are two new technologies currently being developed that should dynamically change the way people enhance photos and in my mind have plenty of applications for historic photos. The first technology which has more modern application can be found in Lytro cameras (not yet available) under development. A company called Lytro has announced that they have developed a technology they call "light field" where the camera will not just capture the light and focal information for a specific point, but all the points within view of the camera lens. What this means is that after a shot is taken, you'll have the ability to change the focal point of the shot after it's taken. The camera will store all possible shots you can take and then allow you to tell it what part of the picture you want to be in focus.
(A single shot with Lytro technology focused on the foreground or background)
If you'd like to see a simulation of Lytro light field technology, see HERE.
And while this all sounds wonderful for the future, what about those photos in the closet that are already wrongly focused? Well, the latest thing to hit the digital photography world has been the rapid development of improved de-bluring algorithms for digital enhancement. That's why I was very excited to see a YouTube clip from the Adobe MAX conference last week, where a new unblur Photoshop tool in development was previewed. People already use Photoshop for photo retouching and enhancement, but I can see that slightly blurry historic photos might greatly benefit from this technology. For example, Virgil asked last week what the blurry words above the mantle in the Goodner family photo read. Maybe with this technology, I could know.
Check out the video below. The resolution is not great, but it does give you a good idea of what's coming: