The Centers of the USA, an exhibit produced by the Institute of Marking and Measuring and the Center for Land Use Interpretation, opened to visitors on August 14, 2010. The exhibit is inside a CLUI Unit temporarily installed at the center of the contiguous United States, north of Lebanon, Kansas, and it depicts and describes several of the "Centers" of the nation, such as the geodetic center, in Lucas, Kansas and the geographic center, near Belle Fourche, South Dakota.
The Centers of the USA is available for viewing by the public 24/7. A phone number on the door tells people where to call to get the access code for the keypad lock on the door, a technique used at several other exhibit facilities operated by the CLUI. The trailer, which has also been enjoyed as a shelter by members of the local highway department, has been visited by hundreds of people passing through over the last six months. Though the site is in a sense a historic relic, as it is the center just of the 48 contiguous states, it is a popular spot for people trying to get to the heart of things.
The exhibit will be moving soon to provide interpretive scope at other Centers. It's next stop is expected to be the new Population Center of the USA, near Plato, Missouri. Every ten years a new population center of the country is determined by geographers at the Federal Census Bureau, using data from the latest recently completed national census. Announced just a few weeks ago, this new center has been located at a point that is half a mile southwest of the town of Plato. A Platonic center indeed!
The official Center of Population for the USA is determined mathematically as the place where an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if all the 310,570,000 or so residents counted in the 2010 census were of identical weight. The previous official population center of the USA, based on the results of the 2000 US Census, is 2.8 miles east of Edgar Springs, Missouri. It moved 35 miles west-southwest from a point near Steelville, Missouri (its position determined by the 1990 census). The new Population Center, near Plato, is 25 miles southwest of Edgar Springs, reflecting the general migration of population from the wintery urban northeast to the sunbelt of the Southwest. Currently the federal government is working with local representatives at Plato to determine a location for a monument to mark the new center in a place that is accessible to the public. Meanwhile, the CLUI is working on looking for a spot nearby to place its exhibit trailer.
This project is part of the CLUI Lines of Site thematic program, an ongoing series of presentations about surveying, cartographic lines, perimeters, and borders. It was made possible with the support of the Salina Art Center, Creative Capital, the Hub Club of Lebanon KS, and the Institute of Marking and Measuring (IMAM).