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Project Summary

ARK (Archival Record Key) identifiers are widely used for objects and abstractions related to scientific and scholarly heritage. ARKs were developed at the California Digital Library (CDL) especially, but not exclusively, for the library, archive and museum community. Their built-in flexibility and ease-of-use has proven popular with researchers and scholars across all academic disciplines, as well as government, commercial and nonprofit sectors. Indeed, over 550 institutions across the world have registered to use ARKs, conservatively estimated to number 175 million.

We (CDL) are launching this pilot project as a first step toward ensuring the ongoing health and development of the ARK infrastructure. By “ARK infrastructure,” we mean open source software tools and systems, the ARK specification, and production-grade resolver services. Community ownership of ARK identifier assets has been under discussion for over a decade, and the project makes a start by establishing an active ARK community group with the aims of

  1. Maintaining two key assets: the ARK specification and the NAAN registry, and

  2. Submitting the current ARK specification to the IETF as in Internet Informational RFC.

CDL plans to be a core member of the ARK community and invites anyone with an interest in promoting long-term access to information objects to join us.

How to Get Involved

Talk with us (and each other):!forum/arks-forum

Express your interest in this project:

Give us feedback on our Project Vision:  

Learn more about ARKs:


Short term - what we're working on now

Developing the pitch

Assembling and convening an ARK advisory group to

  • Review the pitch, revise after feedback

  • Develop procedures for shared maintenance of the organizational registry

Assembling a sub-group of the advisory group (or different team) to work on the ARK IETF specification

Longer term - working on these soon!

Defining a governance model

Defining a financial model

Guiding the ARK specification through the IETF Informational RFC process

  • Consult with the ARK specification team

Developing a process to gather requirements, priorities and models for shared community and infrastructure management

  • Consult with the wider ARK community

Launching an initiative to measure ARK usage world-wide

  • Consider how to use this as a community outreach mechanism
  • Make the survey/measurement repeatable so that watching long-term trends is possible
  • Prepare a proposal for the Advisory Group
  • Develop a dissemination plan

Aspirational items - we imagine ourselves working on these!

We envision an active and involved global community that sustains ARK identifiers as part of the open scholarly and research infrastructure.

  • Automating regular processes, including assignment of organizational NAANs

  • Creating an active open source project around the N2T resolver code base

  • Creating and maintaining an open source library of ARK integrations with external systems

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