The saga of inventions

From the Gas Mask to the Washing Machine

CNRS Archives

CURATED BY Luce Lebart

Thousands of photographs and films were produced in France between 1915 and 1938 as part of a national policy to encourage scientific and industrial research. These little known images constitute the visual records of twenty years of research and inventions, first anchored in war and national defense, and later in civil and domestic life. These analogue archives outline a history of innovation. This story is at the junction of science, technology, industry and design. These archives narrate a tale under construction of the institutionalization of research. From the beginning, a systematic archive policy was implemented. The institution massively produced these administrative images. Their visual rigor is striking. Behind these images, lays the visionaries and pioneers who used and played with the still and animated image, mastering their demonstrative, archival, educational, and communicational powers.


Exhibition coproduced by CNRS and the Rencontres d’Arles, in partnership with the Archives Nationales. 

Publication: Inventions (1915-1938), Luce Lebart, co-edition CNRS/RVB BOOKS, 2019.

Digitalization by Tribvn, Archives nationales, Vincent Guyot and CNC for the films.

French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) is a public-funded institution that covers all scientific disciplines. With 32,000 researchers, engineers and technicians, the CNRS is at the forefront of international research. It has been home to no fewer than 21 Nobel Prize laureates and 12 Fields Medal winners.