Conserving a 224-Year-Old Gift Given to Chief Blackbird

When this document arrived at our Ford Conservation Center, it was in pretty rough shape. Thankfully, Hilary LeFevere, our expert Paper Conservator at the Ford Center, was able to do the hard task of properly conserving this piece of Nebraska history.

The document after treatment. In addition to the writing there is a coat of arms at the top, a drawing of a soldier and Native American shaking hands at the bottom, and a drawing of a shield and weapons on the lower proper right.


When Francois Louis Hector, the Baron de Carondelet and Spanish Governor of Louisiana, awarded a medal to the Omaha Chief Blackbird in 1796, this document came with it. Unfortunately, the years hadn’t exactly been kind to this 224 year-old document. When it arrived at our Ford Conservation Center, it was in pretty rough shape. There had been measures to take care of it many years ago after it split along the fold lines, but they were failing.

The cloth backing used to support it was too degraded and thin to properly support it. The adhesive used to line it had deteriorated and was causing discoloration. And to top it all off, it was really dirty. Thankfully, Hilary LeFevere, our expert Paper Conservator at the Ford Center, was able to do the hard task of properly conserving this piece of Nebraska history.

This little timelapse shortens the long process so you can see it for yourself from start to finish.




For those interested, this is the translated text of the document:

The Baron of Carondelet, Knight of the Religion of St. John, Field Marshal of the Royal Armies, Governor General, Vice Lord of the Manor of the Provinces of Louisiana and Western Florida, Sub-Inspector General of the Troops and Militias of the same.

In consideration of the proofs of fidelity and friendship which we have had from the Indian called Wazhinga Sabe (L’Oiseau Noir)of the Mahas Nation maintaining strict union with the Spaniards, and venerating the respectable and high name of our catholic monarch (whom God preserve) Emperor of Spain and the Indias, from his bravery and influence among all the neighboring nations. And from his knowledge and excellent ability to command with the skill that it required, 

Therefore desiring to reward such commendable circumstance we have decided to name him as Chief of the small medal, advising him of the estimation in which he should hold it, and the obligation he is under to govern his people well, maintaining them in the quet and respect which they owe to the Spaniards and teaching the veneration which is due to the Great King of Spain. Therefore we order the commanders of the ports of this province, officers, soldiers, and citizens to recognize him as Chief of the small medal. As to the Indians of his nation and others whoever they may be, they shall all respect and obey him.

Given in New Orleans on the 12th of May 1796. By order of his excellency, Andres Lopez Arnesto. The Baron of Carondelet.

We’ve also included three detail images of the document below if you want to take a closer look at some of the different parts of it.

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