San Diego Museum of Man visitors are invited to write their own postcards and deposit them into the mailbox.
San Diego Museum of Man visitors are invited to post their own secrets. Photo by Chris Stone

Nestled deep inside San Diegans are their secrets: “Momma would hate me if she knew who I really am.” “I tell people that I don’t care about getting married, but … I really do.”

Such unseen truths are collected for “Post Secret” at the San Diego Museum of Man in Balboa Park.

The exhibit, which debuted Saturday, shares missives shared by people locally and worldwide with Maryland-based Frank Warren, founder of the community art project PostSecret.

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The project has received over a million postcards since 2004 from people who needed to share and release their secrets into the world.

“People project into their secrets what they are carrying around in their heart,” Warren says in an exhibit video.

Some people think the project is weird, but “people come around when they see the depth of what people are confessing — the pathos, the emotion behind it,” he says. “I think it has to move you.”

Warren hopes the cards enrich and entertain, but also inspire and allow people to understand their secrets differently and “the power of letting them go.”

Because of some content, the museum warns that the exhibit isn’t intended for children — and may be may be difficult or disturbing for some visitors.

“A responsible adult should accompany all children 12 … and younger,” the museum says. “You will see real secrets.”

Postcards will be added and exchanged throughout the run of the exhibit.

“This exhibit explores the idea that everyone has a secret — whether it’s funny or dark or awful or romantic,” said Erika Katayama, director of exhibits at the Museum of Man.
“PostSecret explores not only the secrets themselves, but why we keep them, why we never tell them, and why we harbor them for years or sometimes even a lifetime.”

Visitors can write their own postcards. Magazines, glue sticks, scissors and magazine photos are provided as well as a “mailbox” to drop them in.

Secrets are being collected via voice mail as well. (Call 619-269-3894 to leave one.)

The collection of postcards spans a wide variety of emotions. Suicide, lost love, disappointment and loneliness are prominent themes.

  • “This photo was taken just before my hit that won the championship game that you didn’t come to.”
  • “I found these stamps as a child, and I have been waiting all my life to have someone to them to. I never did have someone.”

Some speak of faith or a pending lack of it: “I play piano in a church, but I don’t believe in God.” “My cat had surgery yesterday. If it kills her, I will stop believing in God.”

Others are consequential but less grave: “I lost my mother’s wedding dress at the dry cleaners.” “I pressed the ‘Door Close’ button. I just pretended that I didn’t see you.” And: “I’m afraid my baby will be ugly.”

Some are hopeful.

A checklist on a to-do list has “Say I love you” and “Say I’m sorry” checked off. But “Kill myself” is left unmarked with the note “Looked at Called Hopeline. Going to Class on Monday. Thank you.”

An exhibit signs encourages: Have a sense of humor and perspective. Be understanding. Have an open mind and heart.

Warren volunteered at a suicide prevention hotline and the PostSecret community raises awareness and funds for mental health and suicide prevention organizations.

On the exhibit is the notice: “If you or someone you know is having thoughts about suicide, call 1-800-442-HOPE.”

Related to this exhibit, from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, May 10 PostSecret Live with Frank Warren will be presented at UCSD. Warren will discuss the project, sign books, and answer questions.Guests can make their own postcards to submit. Tickets are $15 for Museum Members and students and $20 for E-Club Members, University of California San Diego Price Center West Ballroom, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla.

Tickets may be purchased on the Museum of Man website.

Also, PostSecret Street Team from 1-2 p.m. Saturday, May 19 will be at Hazard Center, 7510 Hazard Center Dr., Mission Valley to give people opportunity to participate in the project.

Warren’s six books — including “The Secret Lives of Men and Women: A PostSecret Book,” “PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death and God” and “PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions of Ordinary Lives” — became New York Times bestsellers, according to the museum.

Warren updates his blog weekly with new secrets on The museum — at 1350 El Prado — is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday.