Saint-Gobain: 350 years of history in an online Exhibition with an extraordinary wealth of information

March 25 2015



For its 350th anniversary, Saint-Gobain is launching “#SaintGobain350: the exhibition” online, which recounts its history through more than 700 archival documents:


“It is with a certain degree of pride that we are celebrating Saint-Gobain’s 350th anniversary this year. It is a symbolic milestone that provides us with an opportunity to remind everyone of our history, our finest achievements and the passion that has driven us since the Company was established in 1665. Such longevity proves to us that it is necessary, now more than ever, to have a sense of the long term. The peace-of-mind, responsiveness and confidence that our Company has always displayed have enabled us to adapt to the world’s changes, to overcome obstacles and take up challenges. This anniversary encourages us to nurture and pass on this state of mind. Put together from the archives built up by Saint‑Gobain over these three and half centuries, this virtual exhibition will provide everyone with insight into the Company’s memory » said Pierre-André de Chalendar, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Saint-Gobain.


This exhibition has been arranged to facilitate your visit. Its content is accessible via several entry points so that each person can explore the content according to his or her preferences and interests, the history of the Company, industry and the many periods to which Saint‑Gobain has been a witness and active participant.


The various modules

· A timeline with 22 dates to learn about the main periods in the Company’s history.
· A 3D reconstruction of the Manufacture de Saint-Gobain glassworks Mirror Glass Manufactory established in Saint-Gobain (Picardy, France) as it would have been in operation in 1785.
· A gallery of innovations showcasing Saint-Gobain’s contributions to architectural revolutions and changes to housing from 1665 to 2065.
· A gallery of portraits of the Company’s leaders, inventors and employees who have personified the “company spirit”.

Six themes to explore the exhibition’s 700 documents thematically (Transformation of Material, From Advertising to Marketing, Saint-Gobain throughout the World, Major Achievements, The World of Work, and Corporate Governance and Culture.)


In order to reflect the extraordinary diversity of Saint-Gobain and to address as broad a public as possible, the exhibition is available in five languages (French, English, German, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese).



Saint-Gobain’s history begins in 1665 when King Louis XIV signed the documents officially creating the Manufacture royale des glaces de miroirs. This initiative reflected the economic policy of the King’s Minister of Finances, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who wanted to compete with Venice in Europe’s mirror glass market.


Successive periods of diversification and refocussing followed, forging Saint-Gobain as it is today, a company that has retained its historic core business but which has also considerably diversified its product portfolio to become the worldwide leader in habitat.


These changes were accompanied by a powerful commitment to internationalization. Saint‑Gobain has continually gained new markets around the world. Today, it has an industrial presence in 64 countries.


It is this pathway as atypical as it is diversified that is revealed in this virtual exhibition. A pathway spanning three and half centuries marked by successes, and sometimes failures, and innovations. It is a pathway that will fascinate everyone who is interested in the history of companies and in history itself.





Saint-Gobain has been a pioneer in France in the field of business history. The Company established its own archives department in 1974 to conserve and make the best use possible of its many heritage documents and to encourage the creation of a shared corporate culture following the merger between Saint-Gobain and Pont-à-Mousson in 1970.


This archives center has informed the work of many historians and is the primary source of documentary material for the virtual exhibition.


The exhibition, available entirely online, comprises more than 700 documents in a variety of formats (archival documents, photographs, films, objects, etc.). The majority have been drawn from Saint‑Gobain’s archives but some come from public archives, the French National Library BnF and private collections.


The selection and contextualization of these 700 documents are the result of meticulous research and presentation work. “We have made some extraordinary discoveries, especially in the audiovisual collection, which we were keen to present as for the most part they have never been displayed before,” explains Marie de Laubier, Director of General Relations at Saint‑Gobain and Director of the exhibition publication, and Anne Alonzo, Exhibition Curator. “Take, for example, the film called Travailler en usine (Factory Work). It is a remarkable sociological document about working in a factory in 1970, a time when major change was afoot due to automation and changes in workplace relations.”





In order to transcribe the Company’s history as faithfully as possible, Saint-Gobain has opted to open its exhibition to outside contributions. Current and former employees and anyone with information and documents in their possession can place them online on the exhibition site. The aim is to get different points of view of Saint-Gobain’s history–from the narrowest to the broadest. This operation is also a way of collecting documents for the Company’s archives.


If you have something you would like to contribute, click on the section “Share your memories and documents.”


Saint-Gobain has been working since Fall 2013 with Mazedia, a French agency specializing in cultural and heritage multimedia design and creation, to prepare this exhibition.

Download the Press kit


Sophie CHEVALLON                +33 1 47 62 30 48

Susanne TRABITZSCH              +33 1 47 62 43 25