[Request for Comments] Onchain Archival Package for Digital Artworks

Problem to solve:
Currently, art NFTs don’t include provenance, curatorial and exhibition information, only transactional information. However this artistic context is essential for an artwork value, even digital. A few platforms have added provenance and COA information but these are mostly offchain. We are looking for a better platform-agnostic, onchain version of a digital art archive that would travel with the NFT even when sold and resold.

Competitive Landscape / SWOT:

Scribe by Conlan:
Description: A smart contract that allows ERC721 owners to append onchain messages and annotations to their tokens. The longer your message the more gas it will require!
Creator: Conlan Rios, founder of async art
Launch Date: 2019
Platform Implementation: none
Link: NFT Scribe
Pros: developed already and open source, it is a smart contract
Cons: only owners can add a message, not the artist. Costs a lot of gas for very few words (no images). Is not implemented anywhere

Memoirs by Mint Gold Dust
Description: Creating an artwork passport for people to add memoirs about the works
Creator: Eleonora Brizi, former curator of Mint Gold Dust
Launch Date: 2021
Platform Implementation: Mint Gold Dust
Link: Pleasure at Mint Gold Dust
Pros: it was a good idea developed by Eleonora but abandoned when she left the platform
Cons: it’s offchain

Digital Archival Packages by Transfer Gallery and Feral File
Description: Allowing collectors to receive an archival package when they collect an artwork
Creator: multiple
Launch Date: 2020
Platform Implementation: Transfer Gallery, Feral File
Pros: it is proposed by digital art experts who understand the need of archival packages to come with the work (terms and conditions, collectors rights, high-res files, COA, etc.)
Cons: it’s offchain and totally manual process (the zip file is emailed to the collectors by the gallery after the purchase)

Description: We believe in the importance of archiving art exhibitions. Remember your creative legacy by recording your art exhibition history with us: as an artist, curator or exhibitor, we archive your past, current or future exhibitions online (on-chain optional) and share their stories so your art exhibitions remain relevant and discoverable in the future.
Creator: Someone in the WAC Weekly group (can’t find her name right now)
Launch Date: 2022
Platform Implementation: none, on their website only
Website: https://www.exhibited.at/
Artwork example: Exhibited.at - Dog ear composition. no 5
Corresponding blockchain call: Better Call Dev — Tezos smart contract explorer by Baking Bad
Pros: They are art people and get the idea of what needs to be done. There is an allowlist of people allowed to make changes (the artist, the exhibitor, the curator). It seems that it is onchain now.
Cons: I am not sure how the information is actually linked to the artwork and it can only be text / exhibition information for now, it seems. It is a Tezos use case.

Stories by Transient Labs
Description: A revolutionary smart contract that allows stories to be recorded on-chain by holders. A new tool for creators and collectors alike, Story ContractTM provides a mechanism for stories about NFTs, ownership or exhibition to be recorded on-chain. It’s social art, not social media.
Artists and collectors can document stories on-chain, stored immutably and for infinitum
This creates a new content layer for NFTs, giving creators, projects and brands a new storytelling opportunity
Collectors can document exhibitions and or moments important to the token’s history
Actively working with platforms to include functionality to display stories
Global Story_Contract interface where users can explore Stories across pieces and collections
Creator: Transient Labs
Launch Date: 2023
Platform Implementation: none

Pros: It is an onchain smart contract content layer
Cons: It is only working with the transient labs smart contract. I believe it can only hold a small amount of text information.

Digital dossier by Arcual
Description: The world’s first paperless art dossier. Digital Dossier by Arcual is a new way for collectors to pay for art and receive immutable digital provenance immediately.
Digital provenance for your art: Digital Dossier by Arcual helps collectors buy art and receive all provenance and documentation relating to their art electronically and in one place.
Documentation in one place: Store digital copies of all documentation related to the artwork like sketches, photographs, shipping details, installation guidelines, and condition reports.
Certificate of Authenticity: Digital Dossier includes the digital Certificate of Authenticity, Resale Terms and supporting documentation.
Immutable provenance: Digital Dossier provides immutable provenance that future proofs an artwork, recording its history, authenticity, and helping with its future resale.
Creator: Bernadine Brocker
Launch Date: 2023
Platform Implementation: none
Link: Digital Dossier
Pros: it is using the latest NFT standards to store large files (NFT of an NFT + soulbound tokens to represent the artwork)
Cons: it is only on arcual private blockchain and therefore not platform agnostic. It includes private information that cannot be transferred to another owner.

Proposal (WIP):

  • Develop an onchain solution that builds up on the previous attempts detailed above
    Use new NFT standards (NFT of an NFT or soulbound tokens) to be able to add not only text but also images / pdf / large files to the NFT at different moments of the NFT life
  • Requirements: not too gas-heavy, platform agnostic, works with existing NFTs / ERC721 (not just new NFTs or new smart contracts), travels with the NFT when sold (not sure how to do it for series at the series level)
  • It’s important to define strong allow list rules for artists and collectors to add relevant information
  • What to include in these archival packages: evergreen information tied to the artwork (high-res files and various formats that fits different screen sizes, COA, licensing details, terms and conditions, display recommendations) and historical events (Exhibition History, Press Articles, Curatorial Essays, Publications, Quotes by Collectors, etc).

Note from Fanny: A challenge will be to organize these files and how to present them so it makes sense. Some are part of the artwork (COA, licensing, files) and some are linked to its history (exhibition, press, essays & publications). The two types of information could be linked to the NFT differently / treated in different ways

Note from John: the challenge is balancing creating something that’s structured enough to be easy to read, but also flexible so people can extend the metadata with new properties etc. Seems like an interesting taxonomy exercise.

Note from Brennan: ENS system for key-value pairs associated with ENS names that allow you to add social links, linked addresses on other chains, IPFS files, avatars, etc. Could be a good idea here in terms of keeping simple json records that can reference outside objects minimizing storage on the NFT but preserving context/information around the token!

Technical Implementation:
This is where I’d need the most help, to identify the best and newest ways to implement the idea.

  • NFT standard EIP-6551: ERC-6551: Non-fungible Token Bound Accounts
    Note from Brennan: EIP-6551 token bound accounts could be creatable for each artwork (which is a standard erc-721). Tokens representing information around/about that artwork such as provenance (almost like POAPs but for the artwork showing up in an exhibition or something), on-chain legal documents such as copyright and licensing information, supporting work and commentary would all be owned by that account?

  • Smart Contract

  • Soulbound token

Naming Ideas:
Onchain Art Folder / Paperwork / Archival Package / Art Files / Portfolio / Files / Docs

Note from Brennan: I think of this almost like a portfolio or “folder” of “paperwork” which accompanies the physical piece. In many ways, its the things that the artwork “owns” - so I love the use of EIP-6551 here. Maybe each of these token bound accounts could be called a “Folio” or something

Thanks a lot for your help making this happen!


Thanks for posting @flakoubay! I love the idea of extending provenance for NFTs like this.


Hey @flakoubay! Great to see this on the forum. I think this is a very interesting idea. It reminds me of some conversations I’ve had with @chikai about the importance of improving on-chain representations of provenance.

I am curious what you visualize for the development, funding, and sustainability of this. Do you see this as an interesting idea to flesh out, a potential grants project, or some form of more direct support through the DAO? I imagine that due to the early stage its probably some blend of the three or still unclear, but I think that could be a helpful frame for the conversation. It will also help guide ideation on next steps and how various parties can help / get involved

Thanks for sharing this interesting idea and all the work you’ve put into it so far!

1 Like

I think this a great idea. I think it would be optimal to implement it on an L2 because of gas cost but how do you track an art token that lives on the Eth mainnet with 6551. Can a token have an address on an L2? My metamask wallet has one address that works on multiple EVM chains.
What do we do with Tezos and solana? Do we have a separate system for them?
Is there a way to get funding from the big auction houses to build this sort of thing. It seems like we need a charitable foundation to help fund this, it sounds like a lot of work. But perhaps a single developer with the right skills could build the whole stack.


The L2 idea is super interesting. I’ve been looking at L2s for staking as well.

I think we could use an existing L2 or also create one for staking and archival details. A token can be referenced on the L2 from L1 and also bridged over. I think this is also possible for Tezos and Solana.

1 Like

If I had more time it would be interesting to build this sort of thing. I know that over at Colborns MoCA the developer there built some cross chain L2 functions into their system to curate art.

1 Like

I think there are also tools like LayerZero, https://layerzero.network/, that can help with bridging.

1 Like