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Cleanest room on campus? MSU’s ‘Moist Towelette Museum’

October 6, 2023
<p>Museum Curator, John French shows part of his moist towellete collection on Oct. 4, 2023, at Abrams Planetarium located in room 100. </p>

Museum Curator, John French shows part of his moist towellete collection on Oct. 4, 2023, at Abrams Planetarium located in room 100.

Photo by Zari Dixson | The State News

Tucked into the corner of room 100 in the back of Abrams Planetarium, lies one of MSU’s quirkiest collections: the Moist Towelette Museum

Museum Curator and Planetarium Production Coordinator John French started his collection of moist towelettes in the early 1990s. Now, it has amassed worldwide news coverage, even being featured in a New Zealand Herald article showcasing “4 Strange American Museums.” Over the years, the collection has grown in size to over 1,000 towelettes, French estimates.

“I don't really know what other people do as far as collecting moist towelettes, but I think this is probably one of the biggest (collections),” French said. 

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Collection of moist towelettes on display on Oct. 4, 2023, at Abrams Planetarium located in room 100.

Most of the towelettes in his office have been donated from people around the world. French proudly displays wipes from the Turkish Airlines, the Russian Railway and Air Tahiti, among other unique ones. They range in application, from one towelette designed for wiping away radioactive contamination, to one for cleaning dentures. 

French said the museum started when he hosted a conference at a planetarium in Texas. He said that in the lobby, there was a display case with a Mars exhibit and he jokingly replaced its contents with some moist towelettes he had accumulated

“Then being lazy, I didn't take it out after the conference was over,” French said. “And I noticed that visitors to the planetarium were spending a lot more time looking at the moist towelette collection than they were the Mars exhibit that had been in there before that, so I thought I might be onto something here.” 

French came to MSU in 2002 and brought his towelettes with him. However, his love for saving these wipes doesn’t exactly translate to using them

“Well, if you look at my office, you can see I am a pretty messy person,” French said. “Yes, I do collect them. I don't necessarily use them. Maybe I should rethink that.”

Moist towelettes aren’t the only thing being collected at Abrams Planetarium, though. French’s colleague has his own unique collection of Pez dispensers displayed in his office. The planetarium also showcases a collection of a piece of every meteorite that has ever been found or landed in Michigan

French encourages every visitor of his museum to sign the guest registry. After writing their name and hometown, he asks that guests write down what they collect.

“It's just amazing because so many people collect so many things," French said. “I don’t know, maybe it's some kind of a human thing that people just have a need to collect stuff.”

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Museum Curator, John French displays a Star Trek moist towelette part of his moist towelette museum on Oct. 4, 2023, at Abrams Planetarium located in room 100.

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