Archival Resource Keys (ARKs) serve as persistent identifiers, or stable, trusted references for information objects. Among other things, they aim to be web addresses (URLs) that don’t return 404 Page Not Found errors. The ARK Alliance is an open global community supporting the ARK infrastructure on behalf of research and scholarship.

End users, especially researchers, rely on ARKs for long term access to the global scientific and cultural record. Since 2001 some 8.2 billion ARKs have been created by over 1000 organizations — libraries, data centers, archives, museums, publishers, government agencies, and vendors.

ARKs are open, mainstream, non-paywalled, decentralized persistent identifiers that you can start creating in under 48 hours. They identify anything digital, physical, or abstract.

Some things that have ARKs — an article, violin, genealogy, painting, book, sports photo, and plant specimen — assigned by the Louvre, Smithsonian Institution, Internet Archive, California Digital Library, and FamilySearch.

ARKs are similar to DOIs, URNs, and Handles. All of them

  • were introduced over 20 years ago,
  • exist in large numbers (8.2 billion ARKs, 240 million DOIs, etc.),
  • start with a string to identify the name assigning authority,
  • require the active updating of URL redirects, and
  • support research and scholarship, appearing in the Data Citation Index, Wikipedia, profiles, etc.

In contrast, ARKs are cheaper, more flexible, and less centralized, letting you

  • create unlimited identifiers without paying for the right to do so,
  • add any kind of metadata, including no metadata,
  • append extensions and query strings during resolution,
  • link directly to an article, image, or spreadsheet that is immediately usable by people and software without making them first stop at a landing page, and
  • make millions of ARKs resolvable by managing just one ARK, via a mechanism called suffix passthrough.

To get started creating ARKs, please fill out this request form for your organization. If you wish to get involved in the ARK Alliance, consider joining one of its working groups.

Working on the ARK. From a 1401 manuscript page, illuminated by Johannette Ravenelle, that itself has an ARK identifier: (source, National Library of France).