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Get inspired and take a closer virtual look at the annual Great Wisconsin Quilt Show

Explore how PBS Wisconsin transformed their biggest community engagement into a digital twin experience with Matterport

The Great Wisconsin Quilt Show is an exciting annual community and fundraising event that typically draws crowds of more than 20,000 people. Recently, PBS Wisconsin partnered with Nancy Zieman Productions to transform this iconic event into an immersive, 3D visual experience with Matterport technology. Now the one-of-a-kind professional quilts can be viewed and shared with guests anywhere in the world.

We caught up with Cailin Short, environment designer at PBS Wisconsin, to learn more about the organization’s biggest fundraising event and how Matterport products expanded the audience exponentially.

Q: What inspired the 3D capture of this space?

Cailin Short

In the midst of COVID-19, PBS Wisconsin and Nancy Zieman Productions decided to transition the annual Great Wisconsin Quilt Show into a virtual experience. The event is PBS Wisconsin’s biggest community engagement and fundraising event that typically draws more than 20,000 people. Our goal was to recreate the most celebrated elements of the in-person event within a digital space and inspire connection, participation, and mutual exchange. 

One of the highlights of the in-person event is our 10-category juried and judged quilt exhibit. Using the Matterport camera and professional photographs of the quilts, PBS Wisconsin’s design team created an interactive, three-dimensional (3D) walkthrough of the quilt contest and seven other exhibits. During the virtual experience, participants were able to zoom in on quilt details, learn more about each quilt, watch interviews with select quilters, and vote for their favorite quilt for a Viewers’ Choice Award. 

There were 339 quilts on display in the interactive exhibits, which were visited 78,000 times during the three-day event. We had participants from all 50 U.S. states, and countries all over the world, including Australia, England, Germany, Brazil, and Belgium.

Q: What are the “must-sees” you want visitors to explore and why?

The 10-category juried and judged quilt contest exhibit is definitely a “must-see” — especially the Best in Show quilt, “Spring Breeze'' by Barbara Clem of Rockford, Ill. Viewers can zoom in on quilt details, read the story behind the quilt and watch a video statement from the quilter. 

Another “must-see” is a collection of 11 community quilts from the Social Justice Sewing Academy. SJSA aims to elevate youth voices and encourage expression through art. Students work collectively to craft textile blocks that speak to issues of personal importance to form a larger community quilt. Several of the quilts feature audio statements from the youth quilters. It’s an incredible and thought-provoking exhibit. 

quilt 1

Q: What’s the one thing you want visitors to take away after exploring your 3D tour?

We want participants to feel like they’re actually at the event (without the crowds), free to explore the quilts at their leisure and from the comfort of their own homes. We also want quilters to explore the quilts in a deeper way than they have in the past and feel a closer connection to the quilters behind the works of art. 

quilt 2

Here are quotes from participants who spoke about experiencing the interactive quilt exhibits: 

  • “Loved it. Did not have to fight the crowds, could ‘stand’ at a quilt as long as I liked without someone pushing from behind.”
  • “Two friends and I enjoyed viewing the quilts together virtually. We kept a phone line open and discussed each quilt. It was really fun.”
  • “Over the years, I've been to many quilt shows, but this is the first one where I can say that I was able to more fully immerse myself into the quilts. I was able to click on them and better see the stitches. It was also nice to take a break from them and go back to look at more of them. When you are physically there, there are times when you become overloaded and can't appreciate the beauty that surrounds you.”
  • “It was amazing. So well done. A friend and I FaceTimed on our phones and walked down the aisles together on our computers. We really enjoyed it. The photos of individual quilts were gorgeous too.”
  • “I LOVED the interactive exhibit of quilts including the video commentary by the quilters themselves.”
  • “Best virtual show I've ever seen. It was wonderful to see the quilts hung and to wander the exhibits. Plus, I live in Nevada and never would have been able to attend this show in person. Thank you.”
  • “I couldn't believe the viewing of the quilts — absolutely amazing computer work. I have never seen such a brilliant way of viewing quilts.”
  • “Seeing the quilts was my favorite part. The way it was set up, it was almost like walking through a quilt exhibit without the crowds.”
  • “Walking through the displays as if I was actually there! Isn't technology wonderful?”
quilt 3

Q: Do you have any plans to capture more 3D experiences?

Our mission at PBS Wisconsin is to serve our state’s communities, and we are always exploring new ways to engage and connect with our audiences. We are eager to find more opportunities to bring immersive experiences to all of Wisconsin’s communities — whether that be through shared virtual events, deeper dives into thematic 3D content, or even behind-the-scenes tours of our working studios.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

The Matterport system was a great way for us to learn how to nimbly craft a 360-degree tour with such a quick turnaround. It made a tremendous impact on our transition from physical to virtual events.


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