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ARK: Archival Resource Key

ARKs are URLs designed to support long-term access to information objects. They can identify objects of any type:

  • digital objects – documents, databases, images, software, websites, etc.
  • physical objects – books, bones, statues, etc.
  • living beings and groups – people, animals, companies, orchestras, etc.
  • intangible objects – places, chemicals, diseases, vocabulary terms, performances, etc.

ARKs are assigned by information providers for a variety of reasons:

  • self-sufficiency – assigners are not required to join a group or pay fees
  • simplicity – access mechanisms rely only on mainstream web protocols and "redirects"
  • versatility – with "inflections" (different endings), an ARK should access metadata, promises, and more
  • transparency – no identifier can guarantee stability, but ARK inflections help users make informed judgements
  • visibility – syntax rules make ARKs easy to extract from texts and to compare for object variant and containment relationships
  • reliability – an ARK URL retains its core identity even when hosted by different providers, whether in parallel or by future succession

To date about 100 organizations have registered to assign ARKs.  Some of the largest users are

  • The California Digital Library
  • The Internet Archive
  • National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France)
  • Portico Digital Preservation Service
  • University of California Berkeley
  • University of Chicago

We are very interested in building a community of users and will be announcing an email forum soon.  Here is a brief summary of other resource available on ARKs.

ARK Anatomy and NAANs (Name Assigning Authority Numbers)

Generating ARKs

ARKs in Action

CDL Name Assignment and Support Policy Statements

Related Specifications

  • N2T: Name-to-Thing
  • NOID: (Nice Opaque Identifier) Minting and Binding Tool


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