Secrets at the Museum | The Washington Center

Secrets at the Museum

What would happen if you were presented with the opportunity to share that secret that has been eating away at you with the world? Would you do it? What if you could do it anonymously, without the fear that it would be traced back to you? For more than 10 years, strangers from around the world have been sharing their secrets via postcard through a project called PostSecret. Some of those secrets are on display at the Smithsonian Postal Museum.


Secret #1: This weekend I broke the law…

I confess: I read mail that was not addressed to me. I found myself reading some very personal secrets, anonymously written on postcards on display at the US Postal Museum. I know what you’re thinking- the Postal Museum is an unlikely spot for travelers in a city decorated with sexier tourist attractions like the National Mall and the Newseum. But when your mother has been curating a collection of stamps for as long as she can remember, the US Postal Museum is the Mecca of tourist attractions. This post is primarily about PostSecret, but I would be remiss if I didn't share that in the Stamp Gallery there is a table where you can sift through history and browse through stamps of days long past. They even allow you to take six stamps with you for free! Here is my favorite picture of my mom from the weekend:



Secret #2: There are all kinds of museums in D.C. Try them all out, because even the least of them have something incredible to offer if only you are willing to look.

When we entered the museum, I had this special feeling watching my mom peruse the exhibits like a kid in a candy shop. While the Stamps Gallery was the purpose of our visit, the PostSecret exhibit turned out to be the hidden gem of the museum. Tucked away in a corner on the first level, a room of postcards are on display. At first, I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, but it became quickly clear that the room was filled with anonymous confessions from people around the world.


Some secrets were clever:


Some were heartbreaking:


Some were humorous:


Some were sobering:


Some felt like I wrote them myself:


But each was honest.

As I walked through this exhibit with my mom and my aunt, I began to connect with my travel companions as each of us connected with these notes. We moved through a full range of emotions when we read through these multimedia projects, sometimes laughing out loud and other times drying tears from our eyes. Though these weren’t our secrets, they became a part of us as we read these messages penned by those that could share their secret with the world but had trouble sharing it with those closet to them.


Secret #3: There is strength in allowing yourself to be vulnerable and share your secrets.

PostSecret taught me that some secrets are universal - a yearning for love, for fulfillment, for grace under pressure - and touch each of us. The weight of a secret is so much heavier when we don’t have eyes to see that we’re not feeling this way all by ourselves. PostSecret has offered a sense of community to all: whether your secret is that you pee in the shower or that you fear that you won’t find the love you deserve, you aren’t alone.


Secrets feel like burdens when we internalize and take sole ownership over them. PostSecret offers the world a platform to be liberated from that burden. It’s really easy to participate in PostSecret; all you do is write your secret and send it to:


13345 CopperRidge Road

Germantown, Maryland

USA 20874-3454


The founder and keeper of the PostSecret mailbox, Frank Warren, scans and posts the handfuls of postcards that he receives on his Wordpress site, PostSecret. Beyond the website, there are stacks upon stacks of postcards featured at the US Postal Museum. If you’re in D.C., make the trip to this museum and spend time among the secrets. It is healing to read, to write and to realize: you are not alone.


On a personal note:

For this week's song, here is the first song that I ever sang with my a cappella group, the Stocktones! It's called Let Your Heart Hold Fast by the Ford Atlantic, and it's hopeful and fun. Check it out!


Read Julie's previous blog posts

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