Project Description

The United States Census Bureau is responsible for producing data about the American people and economy. Every ten years they conduct the U.S. Census which, among other things, apportions seats in the US House of Representatives and release important data about the American people. A few years ago I was doing a Google or Wikipedia-walk and found that the Census Bureau calculates the decennial Center of Population of the United States. The Bureau’s definition of Center of Population is:

The concept of the center of population as used by the U.S. Census Bureau is that of a balance point. The center of population is the point at which an imaginary, weightless, rigid, and flat (no elevation effects) surface representation of the 50 states (or 48 conterminous states for calculations made prior to 1960) and the District of Columbia would balance if weights of identical size were placed on it so that each weight represented the location of one person.

Mean Center of Population for the United States 2010

Mean Center of Population for the United States 2010

Humans look for patterns and meaning; what does it mean that that the mean center of the population has shifted inexorably west? Everything, and nothing. This charts the history of our western expansion, and the changing face of America.

The 1790 Mean Center is in a cornfield in Eastern Maryland, while the 1800 Mean Center is in the backyard of a suburban Washington house.

center hardware 01b

I am construction a ritual lamp which will glow brighter the closer to a Mean Center of Population. Part beacon and dowsing rod, the ritual lamp will point to the location and reveal a virtual location. The locations might change, but the ritual lamp will stay the same. I will be documenting the making and crafting of the ritual lamp, along with documenting the 23 locations.