GRAY (AP) – A self-professed computer nerd and a history nut have merged their interests and formed a company that specializes in researching the histories of properties.

Rosemary Mosher and Kirsten Read Boettcher co-founded Orbis, which combines cutting-edge computer technology with historic maps and records to create layered maps that show historic geographies and how properties were used in past decades and even centuries.

Boettcher said the business specializes in land-use investigations and historical forensics. Mosher explained how the two got started.

“I’m a computer geek with an interest in history, and she’s a historian with an interest in computers,” said Mosher.

They began working on various freelance jobs together and in 2004, they founded the Gray-based company.

Combining mapping software with extensive historical document searches, they create rich and graphic portrayals of specific areas. Their work could help real estate developers who might want to know whether they’ll encounter graves from a long-forgotten churchyard or ground contaminated toxic chemicals.

Work they have already done reveals buildings in Portland that stand on a filled-in cove, explaining why the basements flood when it rains. It shows why trees in some parts of the city are stunted and why buildings in other locations lean toward each other.

Meriby Sweet, director of the Maine Small Business and Technology Development Center at the Maine Technology Institute, said Orbis’ research provides a linkage between a flat map and history of people inhabiting the area.

“It ties together not just boundary disputes or land use, but that there were actually people who used to live there, our living on the Earth has shaped the Earth and given it in some cases, a different kind of texture,” said Sweet, who has advised Orbis on the company’s business model.

Most of the data Orbis has is centered on the Portland peninsula, but the systems and procedures Boettcher and Mosher have developed can be applied elsewhere.


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